Volunteering for Shelley Trigg means making someone's moment of crisis more bearable.

The mother of two and Northland St John volunteer Emergency Medical Technician has been giving her time to help the community for the last three years.

She is one of 351 volunteers who are spread across St John ambulance stations in Northland dedicated to saving lives.

According to Statistic New Zealand figures, when it comes to volunteering, Northland is best in the country with an estimated 50,000 volunteers working for free in a variety of community groups from sports to conservation to the arts.


Northland's population is just over 151,000.

This week the contributions being made by volunteers is being celebrated as part of National Volunteer Week.

Manager of Volunteering Northland, Bart van der Meer, said volunteers were everywhere in the community.

"They are vital, they keep many organisations and events together. They donate their time, skills and expertise to keep things running. Volunteers are not paid and are there of their own free will for a common good."

Mrs Trigg said she had always wanted to be part of St John and with travel and children behind her it was time to join. After passing an initial assessment there is comprehensive training for the volunteers.

Mrs Trigg said the job wasn't as dramatic as the television shows but was often about reassuring people and helping them when they were experiencing a crisis.

"It's been a real eye opener actually seeing how some people live in the community. You get to help and meet so many people and they really do appreciate your help."

St John Northland district operations manger Tony Devanney said volunteers were invaluable for the survival of the organisation and the patients.


"They are the lifeblood of this organisation," Mr Devanney said.

St John Mid North territory manager Wally Mitchell said volunteers who never thought they had a medical bent often found themselves fully engaged with the training and enjoyed the privileged position of being able to help people.

"The sense of making a difference and having that privilege to go into a person's life in crisis and help is very, very rewarding. As a volunteer you can make a massive difference in a person' life."

Volunteers were also involved in the St John caring callers programme, second hand shops and training cadets.

This year teams from large corporations' leadership ranks, businesses, non-profit organisations and student crews are stepping up and volunteering.

Some groups are using their business skills to help a community group, others are helping with projects as diverse as book sorting to tree planting, painting or cleaning.

In Whangarei alone, included are leadership teams from Whangarei District Council, Refining New Zealand, Fonterra, Warehouse, ANZ, BNZ, Bunnings, Sudburys, Northern Advocate, People Potential and Sport Northland.

■ Sport NZ CEO says thanks to Northland's volunteers - Page 8.