Home Country: New Zealand
Why should you be the IVHQ volunteer of the year?
This year I have been a volunteer coordinator for a program for first year students at the University of Otago. I have been running charity events for them to get involved with, for charities such the Red Cross Nepal Earthquake Appeal, the New Zealand Cancer Society, the Fibromyalgia Foundation, and the Dunedin Night Shelter. Through these events I have helped to raise about $4000 for these charities over the year!
I also run a program called Conversational English, which helps international students understand the New Zealand culture and improve their everyday English skills. My volunteering this year has been wonderful as I have been able to see other people grow and develop their leadership skills through some of the events I have held, and it has been such a privilege to see some of our international students improve their English skills and confidence.
A highlight of the year for me was being involved in the Dunedin SleepOut, an event run by university students that raised funds and awareness for the Dunedin Night Shelter. We managed to get 200 people to sleep outside overnight, and this raised around $12,000.
What motivated you to get involved with volunteering?
I have always loved helping people, and for a long time I have had a caregiving job in a rest home. One day I played the piano on my break, and the residents loved it, so I started doing it every week. It really gave me a thrill to see other people enjoying something I have done. Then I was asked to be a volunteer leader for a program for first year students in 2014, and there I found something I was really good at - interacting with and helping other people. This gave me the confidence to take every volunteering opportunity thrown my way this year - from playing the piano for children to coordinating two Language Programs.
How much time do you dedicate to volunteering?
Over the past year I have done around 150 hours. Each week I would do between 2 and 16 hours, depending on whether I had any charity events organised for that week.
What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?
Seeing the changes that my work makes firsthand. I love encouraging other people to do their best and gain confidence to lead an event themselves through the events I have run. And I love seeing the changes in people’s attitudes and my local community and knowing it is because of work I have done.
What is the greatest challenge of your volunteer work?
This year my greatest challenge was definitely my health, as I was diagnosed with glandular fever in April, which really knocked me around for 5 months. This made it hard to balance my time between my university studies and my volunteer work, but I managed to juggle everything and keep on top of it all!
Why do you believe you will be effective volunteering within a community abroad?
I believe I will be effective because I have quite a bit of experience in communicating with people even with a language barrier. I have hosted international students for years, at school I was the Cultural Prefect, so I had a lot to do with the international department, and for the last two years I have been a Conversational English facilitator. I have been to both Japan and China, and there I had some experience in making myself understood through a language barrier. This background not only gives me an understanding of how to communicate with someone when you don’t speak the same language, but an understanding of what international students experience when they come to a foreign country, and therefore what I might expect by going to a foreign country.
What are you hoping to gain from an international volunteer experience?
From this I am hoping to gain a wider understanding of other cultures, and the cultural differences to New Zealand. I also hope to understand more about how the skills I am currently learning at university will help as many people as possible in the wider, international community.