Volunteer Stories

A Little Time, A Lot of Heart

We all know how busy life can get. Day to day demands can often feel like a full time job in itself.

For many of us, the idea of volunteering is an impractical prospect. We know it’s a great thing to do, but who has enough hours in the day?

For Multicultural Tauranga volunteer Ann Kerewaro, volunteering isn’t about the time she puts in, but the invaluable fulfilment she gets back.

Ann, who moved to New Zealand in 1961 from London, has been volunteering at Multicultural Tauranga since 2006. She joined at the suggestion of a work colleague, and has not looked back since.

“I had never considered volunteering. I had two paid jobs and a busy home life, but after joining I realised how easy it is to make time for something you enjoy.”

Ann’s roles have been as varied and diverse as the community she assists. From 2006 to 2011 Ann was secretary and then became treasurer until mid-last year. She is now taking a break from these executive roles, but that doesn’t mean she is sitting still.

“Now as a committee member, food coordinator for the Multicultural Festival and helping at monthly events, I do whatever I can to assist.”

From organising food stalls to managing the organisation’s newsletter for some years, Ann is always keeping busy, and that’s just how she likes it. And it’s no wonder these roles have suited Ann so well – they were tailored to her strengths.

“My best subjects at school were English and book-keeping.” It is no surprise then that the roles of secretary and treasurer were just right for her.

This hard work landed Ann the title of Trustee of the Year 2015 at the Volunteer WBOP Volunteer Excellence Awards.

Finding time to serve the migrant community whilst juggling work and family commitments isn’t always easy, but for Ann it is worth it. She says one of the best things about volunteering is all the interesting people she meets, the news she hears, and all the great friends she has made – many of whom have come from around the world.

Nearly 20% of people living in Tauranga were born overseas. As a migrant herself, Ann knows how difficult it can be to settle into a new culture.

“I’ve had it easy compared to many, and I enjoy using my skills and knowledge to help other migrants find it easier. It’s a great feeling to be contributing in a productive way to my community whilst learning about other cultures and sharing my own.”

Multicultural Tauranga provides many services for new migrants, such as regular coffee mornings for newcomers, conversational English classes, interpretation and translation services for individuals and organisations, a Justice of the Peace clinic, and regular cultural evenings under the motto ‘Living in Harmony’. It is also an invaluable hub for new migrants who often feel lonely, providing an opportunity to create social connections.

For anyone who is interested in volunteering, Ann has one simple piece of advice.

“Find the right organisation for you. Volunteering is fulfilling when you have an interest in what you are doing. There is no pressure with volunteering – it’s all about doing what you can, and having fun doing it.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Volunteer Western Bay of Plenty at the Historic Village on (07) 571 3714 or via the website www.volunteerwbop.com.

If you are interested in joining Multicultural Tauranga to share your culture and learn more about those in your community, contact the Tauranga Multicultural Centre office on (07) 571 6419.

Inspiring Future Leaders.

Volunteering as a Ranger Leader for GirlGuiding New Zealand’s Mt Maunganui Rangers is part of a lifelong passion for Ami Willmoth.

Ami has been part of the Guiding movement for the majority of her life, beginning in South West Africa at the age of 7 until leaving at the age of 16 to pursue higher education opportunities.

Arriving in New Zealand at age 29, following University studies in the UK, Ami says volunteering with GirlGuiding NZ helped her find her feet in a new country.

“When I arrived in New Zealand I only knew the people I worked with, one lady in my office was a Guide Leader so within a week I was involved and it was like I had an instant urban family.”

Beginning as a trainee Brownie Leader in Arataki, Ami earned leader qualifications as a Brownie Leader and was quickly identified as having a passion for training other leaders.

Following a short break during pregnancy Ami says she returned with the goal of working with older girls and training leaders so she became a Ranger Leader and got involved in the Learning and Development Team for the Bay of Plenty Region.

“Coming back I decided I wanted to try and make a big difference in the lives of the girls and young women I was working with and it is immensely gratifying for me to see their growth and know that I’ve had a hand in it.”

Michelle Goodin, Central North Zone Manager for GirlGuiding NZ, says Ami is extremely dedicated to the Guiding movement.

“Ami is passionate about Guiding and the benefits Guiding provides to the girls she leads.” She says. “This is demonstrated by the fun, varied programme she undertakes with the girls and the number of girls achieving the Queens Guide Award from her unit, the highest Guiding award that a girl can attain.”

Ami credits her role in the Learning and Development Team for enabling her to help others achieve great things.

“They arrive as girls and leave as young women ready to go out in the world and do great things, it’s a real source of pride to me that many of them go on and make a difference across New Zealand and internationally with organisations like YMCA, Unicef and the VSA.”

Welcome Bay Pippin Leader and Level 1 Trainer, Clarelle Davis-Dagg, met Ami when she was training to be a leader and says due to Ami’s encoragement she has become involved in the Learning and Development Team.

“Ami has inspired me to be a better leader and take on opportunities I didn’t even know I was interested in.” She says. “I have learnt a lot from Ami and the skills I have learnt have helped me develop not only as a leader in Guiding but as a teacher and a person, I feel very privileged to have such a wonderful Guiding role model.”

Mt Maunganui Ranger and recent Queens Guide Award recipient, Brigette Horgan, says Ami’s influence on her life has been more than just as a Ranger Leader.

“I have known Ami since I became a Ranger in the Mt Maunganui Ranger unit in 2011 and during that time Ami has been more than just a leader on unit nights.” She says. “She has been part of my life outside Guides and I feel I can talk to her about anything, she is such a caring person and her friendship has been so valuable.”

Mt Maunganui Ranger Leader Emma Weston, who has been part of the Guiding organisation for 13 years, says the mentoring she received from Ami has been immense.

“I have known Ami for 6 years, originally as my younger sisters Brownie Leader then as my Ranger Leader, she has always been an amazing leader, and always treated our Ranger unit as equals instead of children.” She says. “Ami definitely made an enormous positive change in my life, she got me interested in pursuing Civil Engineering as a career and I wouldn’t be the person, or leader, I am today without her.”

Ami is quick to point out that her voluntary work has been of real benefit to her as it promotes her own ongoing growth, learning and experience.

“The skills I have developed have played a real positive role in terms of building confidence and self- esteem, developing interpersonal and organisational skills and learning how to inspire and empower others.”

Ami believes volunteering for GirlGuiding NZ has been a way for her to give back to an organisation that has given so much to her.

“It’s an organisation I knew well, having grown up with it, so it’s very fulfilling to have the ability to give back to a community that has supported me.” She says. “I feel I am a product of Guiding so being involved is a way to pay that support forward.”

Ami’s advice for those considering voluntary work is to take the plunge and get actively involved in something that interests them

“Contact places like Volunteer Western Bay of Plenty or the Citizens Advice Bureau to find a role that utilises your skills and interests because it’s so rewarding to be working with passionate people who have a genuine love for what they are doing.”

Michelle says the Guiding movement relies on the generosity of volunteers like Ami.

“To enable young girls and women to benefit from the great programmes that GirlGuiding NZ has, we need great volunteers.’ She says. “All the programmes run weekly throughout New Zealand are run by volunteers, we would not be able to offer these programmes without the volunteers.”

Anyone interested in learning more about volunteering with GirlGuiding NZ can contact them on their free calling number 0800 555 170 or via their website www.girlguidingnz.org.nz

(Interview conducted by Ross Parsons on behalf of Volunteer Western Bay of Plenty, May 1, 2015.)

Brigette Horgan (left) is one of 5 Rangers to achieve their Queens Guide Award from Ranger Leader Ami Willmoth’s Mt Maunganui Ranger unit in 2015.