Would you like to work for Volunteering Central?

Volunteering Central Project Coordinator: Alexandra

An exciting opportunity has arisen to get involved with Volunteering Central, a division of Volunteering Otago.

We are looking for someone passionate about volunteering who is able to continue to raise awareness of volunteering and increase local participation in the non-profit and community benefit sector in Alexandra and support our work across the Central Otago Lakes District.

The successful applicant will be an organised individual with an understanding of and commitment to volunteering and community development. You will have a proven ability in project development and management, great communication skills, experience of working with people from a wide range of cultures, ages and backgrounds and be confident working without direct supervision.

The position is for 12 hours per week, is based in Alexandra and will require occasional travel to Cromwell, Queenstown and Wanaka.

For further information and an application pack please contact Gillian White on 027 506 5705 or email gillian@volunteeringcentral.org.nz
Applications close 21st September.
Interviews will be held in Alexandra on Thursday 28th September.

Young people – the future of volunteering

In the last 6 months or so Volunteering Central has been asked to talk to a couple of groups of students. Firstly year 11 Mount Aspiring College (MAC) Life Skills students and secondly St Johns Wanaka youth cadets who were aged 8 – 17 years old.

The aim of us talking to each of these groups, was to get young people thinking about volunteers in their community, the range of roles, the types of people who volunteer and how they could get into volunteering if they wanted to.

Initially when speaking to MAC students the key roles they came up with related to the high profile sports events that take place here such as Challenge Wanaka. However when I got them to think a little deeper, and when I met with St John’s youth, they came up with so many examples of volunteers in their communty I was blown away!


Then during our National Volunteer Week celebrations back in June we we so lucky to have two of our community’s youth leaders speak. In Cromwell 18 year old Courtney Anderson shared her volunteering story. Courtney won the Trustpower Youth Community Spirit Award for her involvement in a wide range of organisations including St John Youth, Ripponburn Rest Home and fundraising concerts. She spoke of how generations of her family volunteered before here, installing in her a sense of community and one that she is clearly embracing.

Courtney Anderson

In Wanaka 16 year old Leo Munro-Heward shared his journey of volunteering with anti-cyber bullying group Sticks n Stones and the experience of being awarded in the Giving Back category of the New Zealand Youth Awards for his work in setting up the Queer Straight Alliance in Wanaka. The award recognises people whose actions address a current need and have a significant impact on their community. Leo is clearly passionate about inclusion, acceptance and diversity and is working hard to raise awareness and support of fellow students and young people.


It’s so reassuring to know that our young people are growing up with an appreciation of the roles being undertaken by volunteers in their community – from local sports and youth groups, to supporting older people, events and festivals, environmental projects, fundraisers and of course emergency services. They are also some incredibly active young people who are out and about pursuing roles or even setting up organisations that they are passionate about.

The future of volunteering is in good hands.


‘Earthquake Boy’ inspires in Wanaka

Volunteering Central was thrilled to host an evening with social entreprenuer Sam Johnson this October.

Integral in establishing the Student Volunteer Army in Christchurch following the earthquakes, Sam and the volunteer army team have worked for five years to develop community mobilisation strategies with community leaders, universities, UN agencies and volunteer groups throughout the Asia/Pacific region that all started after the Christchurch earthquakes with the UC Student Volunteer Army.

Sam gave a community talk to around 70 people gathered in Wanaka. A highly humourous, entertaining and poignant evening was enjoyed as the ‘earthquake boy’ shared his journey from establishing the Student Volunteer Army, to volunteering in Japan and Nepal and his current work with social enterprise WeVisit – connecting students and elderly in Christchurch.


With staggering facts about the student involvement in Christchurch, such as 11,000 students clearing nearly 400,000 tonnes of liquefaction over five clean ups, Sam shared how the SVA lead 1500 22 year olds a day “who really didn’t know what they were doing” into an amazing community wide project that continues today and has evolved into so much more.

“There is no doubt we helped Christchurch, but it also changed our entire university experience to where our whole university life was focused away from the university; it was the best thing for us as students.” said Sam.

Sam also acknowledged the amazing work being carried out in Wanaka and discussed the ideal situation in which a movement can be created. “People and organisations need trust and permission to make things happen. With that trust, communities can build a movement.”

In addition to speaking at Edgewater Sam spoke to students at across the region in Cromwell, at Mount Aspiring College in Wanaka and also at Wakatipu High School. He was a fantastic speaker, relaxed, humble and happy to chat to people afterwards about his work. Central Lakes Trust brought Sam to the area and we jumped at the opportunity to host him in Wanaka.

To read more about Sam Johnson check out his website here and the Student Volunteer Army here.

Recognising the informal volunteering in our communities.

There are obviously 100s of people volunteering with a whole range of organisations across Otago who are in structured roles with a clear timeframe for their involvement – but is everyone who is a ‘volunteer’ necessarily linked to a specific organisation?

Not necessarily, there are certainly many individuals who are involved in regular, on-going volunteering each week, where they commit to supporting an organisation they are passionate about and they fulfil a specific role for them. And of course there are the one off events such as Warbirds over Wanaka or the Queenstown Winter Festival where volunteers sign up to assist and get their role descriptions in advance, t-shirts promoting the fact they are volunteers and often some great thank you parties afterwards. The thank you parties, free tickets or t shirts are certainly a fantastic and often enjoyable way to thank volunteers, but the majority of people who put their hands up to help do so simply because they believe in the organisation and they get a sense of satisfaction from helping out – a thank you in whatever form is vital to ensure they keep on coming back

However – there are also 100s of people who help others out each and every day and don’t consider themselves a volunteer or always get the recognistion that they are. This could be as simple as cooking an extra meal for the new mum next door, putting the recycling out for the elderley neighbour, walking the dog down the road, taking someone to the medical centre, tidying the garden of a friend in need or helping a friend move house.

All these little good deeds are what keep our awesome communities ticking and they happen all over the world, often without much thought from the person donating their time, skills or energy. But these people are still volunteers – volunteering to give their time to others with no expectation of payment, simply because they are generous and hopefully because underneath it all they get some satisfaction from knowing they have made a difference to someone else’s day.

I also think that it’s often these people who are more inclined to put their hands up to help in more formal roles. When I meet individuals keen to volunteer I always ask them what motivates them and often the response is as simple as ‘its in the blood’ or ‘it just feels like the right thing to do’. So if you are inclined to volunteer for one role, you are often open to the idea of helping in others.

It’s important not to forget the individuals who carry out informal volunteering and if you are one of them – give yourself a pat on the back today!

Star helpers shine at festival

Like all Volunteer Centres in New Zealand, Volunteering Central offers training and support to volunteers and volunteer involving organisations. This may be on establishing a volunteer programme, advocacy, communication, fundraising or attracting and keeping volunteers. For Volunteer Managers we have a clear message – to treat their volunteers as part of the overall team and ensure they know how they fit into the overall vision of the organisation.

I have spoken previously about how important this is for event based organisations.  For some volunteers they may only be helping for a few hours in the lead up to the event and not actually present on event day. For others they may be helping for the entire time building up to the event and right though the event and clearing up afterwards!

I recently had a trip overseas and was lucky enough to spend the day at a music festival in Yorkshire, England. A very chilled out, family friendly festival, like many events it relies on volunteers to help deliver the three day event.

Volunteers were visible immediately – from entering the car park, exchanging our tickets for wristbands, running the children’s activities area and keeping an eye on punters in the huge tents that housed the stages.

I chatted to some of the volunteers while my daughter did some crafts and was so pleased to hear that they had volunteered the previous year and decided to make the 4 hour journey again to help out for the full three days. I also spoke to  three guys who were enjoying a break and a bite to eat. Instantly visible by their t-shirts they stood out to me and I asked if they were enjoying their experience. All three had volunteered at the previous two festivals and once again had such a positive experience they had decided to return.

The festival was called Underneath the Stars and all volunteers stood out in their fabulous purple ‘Star Helper’ t-shirts. The festival had a wonderful atmosphere and it was clear to me from the interactions I had with the volunteers that everyone was enjoying themselves and that it was well worth them spending their time to help the festival take place and to ensure everyone there had a fantastic time. starsmall

Pictured: Star Helpers Steven Rob and John from the wonderful Underneath the Stars Festival.

My experience brought it home to me how vital it is to ensure that volunteers really are made to feel valued and part of the team – all working towards the same vision. A new festival, only in it’s third year, they seemed to have it spot on and I know if I lived in the UK I would be putting my hand up to help!

Volunteers celebrate with Volunteering Central during National Volunteer Week 2016

Volunteering Central welcomed around 140 volunteers at their four celebrations to mark National Volunteer Week 2016 this June.

Each year Volunteering Central joins with the other volunteer centres and many organisations across New Zealand to celebrate and recognise the vital contribution of the country’s approximately 1.2 million volunteers to social development, the economy and the environment.

This  year,  the organisation, which is an initiative of Central Lakes Trust, held events in Cromwell, Queenstown, Wanaka and Alexandra and invited volunteers to have a drink and a nibble and to listen to some great guest speakers – all volunteers themselves.

In Cromwell Bruce McPherson entertained volunteers as he shared his experiences of volunteering in Papua New Guinea through VSA. He encouraged those present to consider stepping outside their comfort zone and sharing their skills with others living in very different circumstances, highlighting the enormous amount he gains through giving to others.




Queenstown’s celebration, held at the new DOC Visitors Centre, saw a diverse range of volunteers listen to TedX volunteer Sarah Robertson share how and why she makes time in her busy life to join the organising committee of TedX Queenstown.  She highlighted the enormous satisfaction she and other volunteers gain from seeing the event come together and hearing the conversations sparking between audience members following each speaker.


Wanaka saw a change from the regular format as volunteers were ushered into Cinema Paradiso to be entertained and inspired by 7 guest speakers (plus the local Brownie group) who shared in 2 minute snippets their own volunteering stories. Open, inspiring, enlightening and moving – each volunteer had their own reasons for making time to volunteer and we left more knowledgeable about local organisations and humbled by their speeches. Volunteers then enjoyed drinks, nibbles, popcorn and the famous Paradiso cookies before being invited to stay for a film!

Paradiso1 WKA4 WKA3 WKA2 WKA1

Finally in Alexandra volunteers gathered at Alexandra Community House where It’s Not About Us trustee Wayne Perkins had the crowd listening, laughing and moved to silence by his experiences in Vanuatu. Local volunteer Dave Ramsey was also presented with a $200 Monteith’s Brewery Bar voucher as the lucky name selected from a host of nominated volunteers in the area. All worthy nominees and Dave a very popular winner who is planning to share his voucher with others.


“We welcomed around 140 volunteers, plus Mayor Tony Lepper (CODC) and Deputy Major Lyall Cocks (QLDC) to our celebrations this year and it was great to see so many new faces mingling with those who turn up regularly each year. Volunteers were from diverse backgrounds – highlighting that there isn’t a ‘typical’ volunteer – just people connected by making time to support someone or something that they are passionate about.” Volunteering Centrals Gillian White says. “We met men, women, teenagers and children, students, travellers, professionals, retirees, unwaged and parents and between them all they represented around 60 different volunteer involving organisations. It was fantastic seeing people brave the cold to come together and be thanked for all they do to keep our communities ticking along so wonderfully.”

A Central Lakes Trust initiative established in 2011, Volunteering Central seeks to raise awareness of volunteering in the Central Otago Lakes District and connects volunteers to organisations that rely on their amazing efforts. They would like to thank Otago Community Trust, New World, DOC, Alexandra Community House, Wanaka Marquee and Party Hire, Liz Breslin, Calum McCleod and Cinema Paradiso, Monteith’s Brewer Bar Alexandra, Local Radio Central, Radio Wanaka and all the volunteer helpers and speakers for their support of National Volunteer Week 2016.

How can we make time to volunteer?


Volunteer Centres around the county will be gearing up for National Volunteer Week due to take place this year from the 19th – 25th June and we are no exception in Central. Each year we host four celebrations in our hubs of Alexandra, Cromwell, Queenstown and Wanaka and invite volunteers from around the region to join us and be thanked for the astounding work they carry out in their community.

This years campaign is a call to action, with a lack of time is the most commonly cited reason why people don’t volunteer, both in NZ and internationally. I hear this a lot, from students, employees, parents and of course retired people who are often the busiest people in our community! Life is busy. We juggle work, children, studies, sports, events and socialising. There is barely enough time in the day as it is, without taking on any more committments. Agree? But what if volunteering is viewed as a leisure activity in itself? Does it still feel like we have to make time to do something if it is a priority and something we enjoy? If it is something we feel valued for and the benefits of our involvement are clear to us?

This National Volunteer Week we will be encouraging organisations around the region to take a step back from their usual viewpoints and look at the roles they are filling (or trying to fill) with willing volunteers, and get them to ask themselves if the role is a rewarding one, and one that is worth a volunteer ‘giving up their time for’. If it is, then hopefully the volunteer doesn’t feel that they are giving up their time, but simply choosing to spend their time there as is a pleasure to do so. If volunteers have a clear idea of how they and others are benefiting from their involvement and how they are contributing to the wider vision of the organisation, coupled with the satisfaction they gain – then surely we can all ‘make the time’ to volunteer and it becomes part of our regular weekly, monthly or yearly routine without feeling that we are giving up our precious time.

Looking after your volunteers at events.

Earlier in March I was invited to speak on behalf of Volunteering Central at two workshops hosted by the Queenstown Lakes District Council. The audience were all event organisers and I was asked to hightlight in ten minutes the basics of recruiting, retaining and recognising volunteers who help at events.

The QLDC region has a huge amount of events. It’s such a stunning and varied outdoor environment it lends itself to a great range of events but most noticeably sports events whose organisers take advantage of the rugged landscape. Other speakers included representatives from Dunedin based Such Crowd, Health and Safety, the Council Planning Team, and Event Funding.

So how does recruiting volunteers for events differ than recruiting for on going long term roles? The importance of planning for your volunteers is the same regardless of role – a proactive organisation will reflect on volunteer input during their annual planning process and the management of the volunteer programme should receive same consideration as other major projects.

The amount of volunteers needed is irrelevant as to how you recruit and involve them. All volunteers should be well prepared and briefed for their role. Volunteers should have a clear understanding of their role and know who to contact with any questions or issues.

And most importantly volunteers need to feel that it has been worth giving up their time to volunteer – they should feel that they have been involved in a meaningful and rewarding experience.


(Queenstown International Marathon Volunteer Tail End Charlie)

I talked alot about the organisation’s vision is and how the volunteers fit into this vision. Managers need to plan to share this vision with volunteers and keep it at the forefront of everything that involves them – from the bag packers and the signage crew through to the people on ticketing at an arts event or those in catering – everyone needs to know that their contribution is important, valued and part of the bigger picture.

I also encouraged organisers to consider why they are involving volunteers and what they bring to the event – to recognise the fresh ideas, new skills, diversity, energy and sense of community they bring to the event – not just the fact they are saving money.

Such a huge part of being successful in recruiting volunteers is around the culture created within the organisation around involving volunteers – are they welcomed and made to feel part of the bigger picture – the wider vision, are they listened to, respected, made to feel valued by other staff and volunteers? The key elements remain the same whether you ar dealing with 1 or 1000 volunteers. They all want to feel it has been worth putting their hand up to help and that they have been involved in a meaningful, enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Anna, Lorraine, Annie and Linzi

(Festival of Colour Staff and Volunteers)

And how do volunteers want to be recognised? The most common answer we here is simply – a genuine and sincere thank you!


(Challenge Wanaka Crew and Volunteers at the Volunteer Thank You Party)

If you plan and prepare for volunteers, they are more likey to have a great experience, more likely to tell others about it and more likely to keep coming back to help out. Look after your volunteers and reap the rewards of having such as diverse, energetic and committed team supporting your organisation!

Gillian White – Senior Project Coordinator with Volunteering Central

Cancer Society seek volunteers in Wanaka


The Cancer Society are looking for volunteers, in particular in Wanaka and at the shop in Queenstown. They are looking for people to join the volunteer team in Wanaka. Do you have a few hours to give? Regularly or casually there are many roles that may suit. They would love to hear from you!! Roles include:

  • Support for those affected by cancer – this might involve visiting, carer respite or driving someone to an appointment for treatment. This support may be a one off visit or drive, or a regular event over a specified period of time.
  • Administration – assistance with mail outs and data entry etc.
  • Baking – this is a monthly task; a batch of biscuits, a small loaf or a meal
  • Events and fundraising – this might involve an hour a community event or assisting with Daffodil Day or Relay For Life
  • Retail assistants – handling stock and/or serving customers

Please contact Robyn on
021 279 7797  or robyn@cansoc.org.nz for more information or to sign up.