Celebrating international volunteer day

Meet David Baker, an active volunteer for a variety of local events.

International Volunteer Day is celebrated every year on 5 December and champions the impact volunteers have in communities, nationally and globally. Wānaka has volunteers from all walks of life involved in many varied and diverse roles, each giving up their time, energy and skills to help make this community a great place to live. 

Some volunteer roles are very visible; the emergency service volunteers, the marshals at events, the countless sausage sizzles, those collecting money for a cause they are passionate about, the local walking school bus volunteers getting kids to school safely each day or our local op shop volunteers.

Others are less visible. The big buddies supporting our local children, companions visiting our older population in their homes, Elmslie or Enliven, volunteers running GirlGuides, Scouts or St John Cadets, those improving our environment by checking traps, maintaining the Lindis Pass or planting our native trees grown by Te Kakano’s nursery volunteers.

Perhaps one of the least visible is those taking on a role on a board of trustees and Volunteering Central has become aware over the last month of many local organisations seeking fresh volunteers to carry out these roles.

We’ve had an unusually large number of requests to promote the need for trustees recently. Organisations that Volunteering Central have identified or been approached by as needing new board members in the last few months include; The Upper Clutha Sports Community, (treasurer), Play Therapy Central (trustees), Kahu Youth, (trustees), Wānaka Community Hub (trustees), Scouts (treasurer), Wānaka Alcohol Group (treasurer) and Hāwea Community Association (trustees).

Filling key roles like trustee Chairs or treasurers is a challenge and can take time to reach out to the right person. Some groups are very confident putting the word out there and approaching local media to raise awareness and others need a helping hand. Volunteering Central are there to support organisations seeking new volunteers.

Roles on boards can be one of the most challenging, but also the most rewarding of roles. While responsibility for day-to-day operations is handled by management, staff, or volunteers, the board is in place to tackle problems and decisions related to bigger issues, such as the direction and mission of the organisation, staffing concerns, and general governance-related matters.

If we’re honest this responsibility can be off-putting for some volunteers who feel the role is too big or time consuming. This is even more apparent when the role is that of a treasurer whereby the financials are recorded and reported on by a volunteer. However, like any role, we encourage boards to have a solid induction in place for new board members and each member should be supportive of each other – taking a joint responsibility for sharing the workload and decision making processes. 

Volunteering Central are also in discussions with a range of organisations such as LINK Upper Clutha, Sports Central, Upper Clutha Sports Trust and Affleck O’Meara Accounting Superheroes to explore other ideas to fill some of the treasurer roles on boards.

If you have a strong sense of community, have experience in either governance, marketing, strategic planning, funding or finance or HR then there will be a board out there that would love to have you join them. If you don’t have the experience, but are reliable, professional, great at building relationships and keen to develop these skills then Volunteering Central would still love to hear from you! Volunteer today and make a difference in your community.

David is one of Wānaka’s busy event-based volunteers and has been actively involved in the community since he moved here in 2015.

Originally from the UK, David has enjoyed a career working at universities, where he ran the international office and was responsible for the recruitment and pastoral care of international students, as well as student exchanges and strategic linkages.

David moved to New Zealand to take up a job at Auckland University in 2008. In the winter of 2014 he took unpaid leave and came down to Wānaka with his wife Sue to take the instructor training course up at Cardrona. They loved it here so much that he never went back to work! They built a house and moved here permanently the following year.

“I retired when Sue and I moved to Wānaka, but it would have been a waste not to use the training I got at Cardrona, so I work there part-time as a ski instructor during the very busy period in July and August. I also do a bit of driving/tour guiding for Ridgeline Adventures in the summer,” says David.

“When I first came to Wānaka I was worried about the so-called 'cliff-edge' of retirement and threw myself into virtually everything I could find, but then realised I was putting myself under unnecessary pressure. Once I figured out I only needed to do things that I really enjoyed, I really started to have fun as a volunteer.”

“Over the past few years I have volunteered for Challenge Wānaka (including hosting a professional athlete), Warbirds Over Wānaka, Wheels to Dunstan, Stars in Your Eyes, Winter Games NZ, Festival of Colour, Wānaka Ski and Snowsports Club and various musical activities at local schools and supporting young people with their musical talents. My biggest passion is music. I've always played keyboards in bands, but I now have more time to engage in a wider variety of music — and to have singing lessons!”

Volunteering should be full of proud moments but you can also be faced with challenges and David’s experiences combine both. 

“A couple of years ago I asked Mat Doyle, head of music at MAC, if there was anything I could do to help his department. He told me the school was putting on a musical, Catch Me If You Can, and he anticipated that the score was going to be challenging for what was going to be a very young orchestra that year. Would I mind playing along at rehearsals to guide them through until they learned all the songs? We got going and it was an absolute blast, if challenging. With only a week to go before the performance and everyone still struggling, one year 13 student asked 'Are we really going to do this, Mr Doyle?' We were and we did (and I managed to talk my way into playing on stage) and those kids rose to the occasion magnificently. It was a privilege to have been part of bringing the production to the stage.”

David has tried and tested a whole range of volunteer roles and he is clearly passionate about the organisations and events that he supports. David highlights how flexible volunteering can be and how it can fit in around other commitments, passions and interests. 

“Don't feel you have to do everything. Get involved in things you really enjoy doing, and if anything starts to get in the way or become a chore, give it up and try something else. It's not as though you're depending on it to put food on the table.”

If you would like to know more about in volunteering contact Volunteering Central on hello@volunteeringcentral.org.nz or call 027 506 5705.

Volunteering Central is an initiative of Central Lakes Trust and promotes, supports and strengthens volunteering across the Central Otago and Lakes District. www.volunteeringcentral.org.nz 


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