Volunteer Stories



Meari is heavily involved with the St Vincent De Paul Fullstop Van and Loaves and Fishes. Two very important initiatives dedicated to providing food to children throughout Tauranga who would otherwise go without. She has always been a giving person volunteering like any mother would at school events, swimming club and Surf Lifesaving carnivals. It wasn’t until she saw a sign advertising full stop in the church bulletin that she got heavily involved in volunteering.

Meari has seen a lot of young people involved with the St Vincent de Paul initiatives. Meari encourages all young people to get out and volunteer. “Get involved with anything and everything because time goes by so fast. Get involved even if it is just small steps”. Meari highlighted that everything you do, whether it small or big, done right can make a huge difference in the lives of others.

Meari’s top tips for young volunteers

  • Don’t waste your time get involved as soon as you can.
  • Balance your school work, sport and volunteering. Volunteering doesn’t mean giving up your interests, instead use your interests in a positive way to help others.
  • Don’t feel you can only help by doing something big, even small things make a big difference.
  • If you are able to let giving into your life, thrive on it and build from it.

Miranda Cassidy

Miranda Cassidy is a World Vision Youth Ambassador. She was lucky enough to travel to Jordan to see the Syrian refugee crisis and the impact of the 40 Hour Famine first hand. Miranda has become a voice for the people she met in Jordan and is still continuing her role.

Miranda started volunteering by fundraising for causes she believed in. For her, this was Orange Friday- an initiative which raises money for families where domestic violence is a problem. She then went on to participate in the 40 Hour Famine and from there applied to be a World Vision Youth Ambassador. By joining World Vision Miranda has gained so many new positive experiences and skills. She said that “being part of World Vision means that you are part of a family”. It has changed the way she perceives the world and situations and has helped her define what she wants for her future. Miranda has leant so much and her public speaking skills have improved a lot due to her role.

When asked if she would recommend volunteering to other you people, Miranda said she totally would. “I think it’s a great way, a hands on way to look at the bigger picture, and things that affect our society or world. It creates understanding not just only of the situations you are working in but  also of yourself. Your wants, dreams and values. Knowing these things is so helpful when trying to figure out your place in the world. Volunteering has honestly been so valuable for me.”

Tori Bloomfield

Claudia O'Neil

Volunteering experience impressive to employers

University of Waikato Bachelor of Science graduate Tori Blomfield took up volunteering as a hobby in 2013, wanting to make a difference in other people’s lives. Little did she know, her volunteering experience would later score her a trip to America, a new group of life-long friends, plus a job as an Engineering Geologist at HD Geotechnical.

Tori became involved with volunteering in her final year at St. Paul’s Collegiate School. As part of her responsibilities as a house leader, Tori volunteered with the Burn Support Group’s fundraising initiatives and children’s camps.

“Volunteering for the Burn Support Group has been the most rewarding experience I have ever had,” says Tori. “I deal with young children who inspire me and make everything so fun. Being part of their journeys and watching them evolve is incredible.”

A highlight of Tori’s volunteering experience was attending the International World Burn Survivor Conference in Indianapolis in 2015. With one thousand burn survivors attending the conference, Tori enjoyed talking to people from all around the world about their journeys.

“It was an honour to attend the conference in America, and it’s just another example of the benefits volunteering can give you. My volunteering experience has taught me how to interact with people from all walks of life.”

Tori’s people skills and volunteering background set her apart from other applicants and landed her a job at HD Geotechnical, an engineering consultancy firm in Hamilton.

“When I applied for the job, I was able to talk about my volunteering experience in my interview, and it really impressed my employers. I deal with a huge spectrum of different people at work, so it’s been incredibly helpful to have that experience.”

Tori’s passion for volunteering has grown, and her long list of work experience includes the Golden Key Honours Society, Arthritis New Zealand, the Cancer Society, and the English Learners Corner.

“The best part of volunteering is when a stranger comes up to you and tells you what they’re going through and how your work has impacted their life. My advice to other students is to give volunteering a go – you definitely won’t regret it.”

The University of Waikato’s Employability Plus Programme provides volunteering opportunities for University of Waikato students, with over 60 partnerships with non-profit organisations in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

Volunteering helped me obtain experience in tough youth job market

Claudia O’Neil’s search for work in NZ has been defined by expectations that applicants have relevant and lengthy experience, no matter if a position is for graduates or for relatively easy work. This is somewhat reflected in the rate of youth unemployment across the country. Stats NZ reported that 2016 rates of youth unemployment were 16.5 percent – 5.3 percent higher than the national rate.

December 2016, Volunteering Bay of Plenty (VOLBOP) afforded me an ideal opportunity to gain relevant experience. I found the vacancy for a marketing assistant volunteer role online while searching for paid work in Tauranga.

My marketing duties included promoting volunteering and VOLBOP’s services on Twitter. I also spent much of my time researching alternative social media platforms VOLBOP could use to raise its profile. Later in December I wrapped presents with the VOLBOP team at Noel Leeming, talking with people about their interest in volunteering and collecting donations. I absorbed as much knowledge about the nonprofit sector and volunteering as I could. Early 2017 I moved to Auckland briefly to continue my study of Public Policy and Marketing.

By late 2017, I was back in Tauranga to take up my marketing assistant mantle once again. I volunteered full-time at VOLBOP for a month in December while also applying for paid work in Tauranga. As previously it was very difficult to find jobs that suited me that did not require extensive experience. Luckily in January I was offered a paid position and I am now preparing to juggle paid work, volunteering and study.

After researching youth unemployment I did feel a little better about being unemployed. However having this knowledge did not reveal a solution for myself or my friends who continued to struggle getting work. Those of us who had enrolled in university after college were comfortable in the sense that we were doing the right thing, that graduates find it much easier to get work. And now, after time and money spent, I find that employers see tertiary education as valuable only when paired with extensive experience.

Given the setbacks I had been through, it’s not surprising how excited I was to get a volunteer marketing position with VOLBOP. I could see no other way to acquire the relevant experience demanded by employers. I see volunteering as an opportunity for this environment to change.

Tracey Harris

Kent Leung

Student Volunteering with “passion”

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention ages. Yet, when it comes to student volunteering, it is quite unusual to encounter student volunteers who are over 40 years.

At 44, student volunteer Tracey Harris still finds volunteer work fun, worthwhile and enjoyable. She is currently on her third year as a volunteer at Student Pulse, a service that supports students at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, Rotorua, where she is completing a degree in Business Management. Tracey now runs the Student Pulse Store and the food rescue program via Love Soup, after finishing her two-year term as an executive member of the organisation in 2017.

“Passionate”; that is how Tracey describes herself as a volunteer. “I enjoy what I do. My mantra is – do it with passion, or don’t do it all,” she proudly confesses. Though her main task is to operate the store, she said that her duty extends beyond that. For Tracey, her volunteer work at Student Pulse gives her the opportunity to bring people together and provide a welcoming atmosphere for new students, including international students.

“It’s a hard world out there and my job is also to help them, give them support, and make them feel like they are not different from others [who are originally from New Zealand],” she shared. “That’s why one of the most rewarding parts about my job as a volunteer is seeing the students’ smiles and hearing their laughter.”

Aside from juggling studies and volunteer work, Tracey is a mother of two sons. Despite having a busy schedule, she still wants to make time for volunteering because she knows it continuously helps her become a better person every day. She shared how volunteering has helped her discover more good things about herself, saying, “I learned more good values when I started volunteering; humility and selflessness. It’s like volunteering has given me a healthy mind-set.”

As Tracey is now in the final year of her studies, she still plans to continue volunteering after graduation. She believes that when done with passion and commitment, volunteering can be one’s source of pride and fulfilment no matter what one’s age or background is. After all, volunteerism knows no boundaries.

Growing demand for St Johns Health Shuttle in the Bay of Plenty

We recently caught up with Kent Leung, a volunteer for the St John Health Shuttle, to find out a bit more about the Health Shuttle and the role its volunteers play in keeping this community service operating.

The St John Health Shuttle is a service by donation that transports people to essential medical and health-related appointments and then brings them home again. It is just one of many community services offered by St John throughout the country.

In his role as a volunteer, Kent works with a buddy to drive and assist their clients to essential medical appointments, helping them to and from their homes and into their appointments. Kent told us that his focus is on providing clients with assurance and effective communication.  “Our clients differ in their level of mobility but what is most important in our role is ensuring that our clients feel safe and are reassured that we’ll get them back home again once they’ve finished at their appointments,” he says.

Kent, who is a retired nurse, moved from Hong Kong in June 2016 and joined the St John Health Shuttle team just a few months later. He had previously volunteered for the equivalent service in Hong Kong and received a commendation for 35 years’ service there.

Kent’s typical work day with St John Health Shuttle will start at 7.30am and goes right through to 4.00-5.00pm. He says that he’s noticed that demand for the service is growing and this is supported by the St John Health Shuttle statistics, which show in April this year the Tauranga Health Shuttle did 461 trips compared with 307 trips in the same month last year.

Kent says that he has been impressed with the level of professionalism demonstrated by St John and believes that is why it has such strong public support. “All our members have a minimum requirement of a First Aid Certificate and many have specialised skills and because of this there is a strong level of trust from the public.

“While I knew of St John for its Ambulance services before I arrived in New Zealand, I was really surprised by the number of other services St John provides to support the community,” he says.

“Volunteering is so rewarding because it allows you to form a social network with people who share the same values as you. You really do get back more than you give,” he says.