The Board

Trish Baars


Trish was born and raised in South Africa. Trish has a Bachelor of Commerce degree and was a member of the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants as an Associate General Accountant.

In 2009, having been a single, working mother for 18 years, Trish took a year out of life for herself and went backpacking around the world.  It was during that year that she met a Kiwi, fell in love and decided to move to New Zealand to be with him.

Trish arrived in Christchurch in January 2011 and endured the earthquakes for 3 years before relocating to Tauranga.  Whilst in Christchurch, Trish volunteered as the Treasurer for the Exchange Branch of the NZ Stamp Collectors’ Club, and as the Treasurer for the Edgeware Christian Spiritualist Church. Trish is now a self-employed contractor with a small but diverse client base for whom I perform bookkeeping and administration services, including payroll administration, report preparation, GST returns, and other similar duties.

Trish’s favourite activities are laughing and the regular weekly meetings of her Laughter Yoga group are what go a long way to keeping her sane and happy.

Monique Edlinger


Monique’s decision to move to the sunny bay in January 2014 was instigated when her eldest daughter decided to study at Otago University.

She moved here with her younger daughter and became a volunteer with Tauranga Youth Search and Rescue as her daughter was attending their programme.

She is a people and community-focused person and most of her roles have been in the community sector, either through employment or volunteering. Monique has joined the board at Volunteer Bay of Plenty as she believes strongly in social responsibility and believes that through collaboration more can be achieved that will have a positive impact on our community. Monique is a member of Sunrise Rotary, a Trustee of 4Good Charitable Trust and a member of the Smart Growth Social Sector Forum.

Working with people is her passion, she is a self employed Project Manager and loves the variety offered in this role. Her interests involve learning new skills, various social, physical and outdoor activities, as well as spending time with family and friends.

Cushla Summers


Cushla was born and raised in Tauranga, and then moved to Auckland and Hong Kong to work and study. She returned to Tauranga 12 years ago to enjoy the wonderful lifestyle Tauranga offers.  

Cushla has over 25 years experience within the tertiary education sector researching, developing and facilitating tertiary and adult psycho-educational programmes at AUT University and the Bay Of Plenty Polytechnic. In addition, Cushla has over 30 years’ experience in programme development and educational project management within the education, NGO and community sectors. Cushla also established and managed a Vocational Training Centre for expatriate adults with special learning needs in Hong Kong, and this centre continues to offer a valuable community service today.

Currently, she is one of the Directors for ‘Life A Plenty’; a service which provides therapeutic retreats, community workshops, Women’s Retreats, professional development seminars/workshops and counselling services within the wider BOP. Cushla holds a Masters in Education, postgraduate qualifications in Career Counselling and has additional qualifications in Community and Social Work and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFLA).

Cushla strongly values the contribution volunteering brings to the Bay of Plenty community. As a Board Member for Volunteering BOP, she considers herself very fortunate to have the opportunity to apply her experience and skills within this important and valuable community service. Her interests include tramping, fly-fishing, singing and running.

Elise James


Elise was born and raised in Victoria, Australia. 3 years ago, she moved to Hamilton, New Zealand, and was very fortunate that her husband was transferred to sunny Whakatāne 1 year ago.

Elise holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Business (Management), and a Graduate Certificate in Regional and Community Development from Monash University, Australia; as well as a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood Education) from the University of Waikato, and is now working towards a Masters in Education from Massey University, by distance. Over the past 11 years Elise has worked in international development in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Indonesia and Guyana, for several major international charities. She first began volunteering at the age of 11, as a tutor through an Australian charity called the Smith Family. Since then, she’s volunteered with animal shelters, refugee organisations, environmental organisations and education institutions, locally and internationally.

Elise believes in volunteering as a meaningful, mutually beneficial partnership. As well as being a Board Member for Volunteering Bay of Plenty, she is a current volunteer for The Clothing Project in Whakatāne, and a fosterer for SPCA Opotiki. Elise’s favourite activities are yoga, cooking up great vegan food, snowboarding, and enjoying living on the beach.