Volunteers give their all for communities

By Wintec student journalist, Tom Eley

Volunteers around the country rack up an impressive 270 million hours between them each year.

And Volunteer Week, which wrapped up on Saturday, celebrated those who make the commitment to better their communities.

For many organisations, life would be difficult without volunteers tackling tasks ranging from taking care of kittens to conducting search and rescue missions on stormy seas.

"Our volunteers are our life-savers and without them we would not be able to do the work that we do," Lorna Thompson, manager of the SPCA in Napier, says.

"During kitten season we can have up to 60 cats and hundreds of kittens, and volunteers are crucial."

The centre has 30 volunteers and each day five or six help, mainly with the cleaning.

"The guys who help us love doing the work and seeing the animals going to a new home is always a great moment," Ms Thompson said.

The SPCA's volunteers range in age from 16 to 80.

"The service they give us is great and we have had a couple of people who have been with us for eight years."

Volunteer Krystyna Simmonds, a former Sacred Heart College student who has been helping out since February, flashes a huge smile as she walks around the Napier shelter.

"I love having the chance to interact with animals each day and every day is a new challenge," she said.

"I am planning to go to the Eastern Institute of Technology next year to study animal care. I want to be a vet nurse."

Her duties range from preparing the meals for the kittens and dogs through to cleaning out cages, which she said was the best part of the job. Why? Because you get to play with the animals.

Krystyna said she worked weekdays from 9am to 3pm and it was full on most of the time.

Her best moment so far was when she fell in love with a black rabbit called Allie and was allowed to take it home, her first pet.

Meanwhile, Hawke's Bay Coastguard president Dick Hilton said "every week is volunteer week" for his organisation.

"We would not survive without the volunteers, who do just about everything from radio operations to going out on the boat," he said.

"There are 55 volunteers and without them we would almost cease to exist."

People of all ages put their hands up to help and were happy to go out in rough seas in the middle of the of night to do training exercises.

And the training exercises could take them from Wairoa to Cape Kidnappers.

Janene Hole, of Napier, has been volunteering for more than two years. She had been looking to join a surf lifesaving group but the Coastguard "roped" her in.

A single parent with three children, she said she juggled study and work commitments alongside her coastguard duties, which ranged from helping out with the boat crews to offering medical assistance on search and rescue missions.

Joining the Coastguard had been rewarding: "The more you put in, the more you get out."

The work the Coastguard did tended to be seasonal but "we cannot afford to get rusty," Janene said.

"If a life is in danger we need to get out to sea quickly."

The best thing about volunteering was giving back to her community and "having a real shot at doing something amazing," she said.

Biddy Doyle, of Havelock North, is one of about 30 volunteer ambulance officers for the Hastings and Napier St John's unit, which covers Hawke's Bay from Wairoa to Waipukurau. "Being a volunteer ambulance officer you are in the same role as the qualified guys, you are there to help," she said.

"It's helping the community and the thanks you get from the people that makes it worth it."

Biddy started training in July 2010 and went through a four-month observation period, finally getting to drive the ambulance in March last year.

She now does two shifts a week while also taking care of her work commitments and her duties as a mother but tries to do more when possible.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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