When Shashi Kariyawasam came to New Zealand from Sri Lanka in January last year, she'd never done any volunteering.

But in the short time since she arrived, the 28-year-old has volunteered at the Special Olympics and is now involved with a resettlement programme at the Whangārei Migrant Centre.

"I worked as a co-ordinator at the Special Olympics, so I would go to trainings and practices and cheer up the athletes and help them," Kariyawasam said.

"Now I'm working at the Migrant Centre on a new project, helping to empower new migrants and help them get employment," she said.


Kariyawasam left Sri Lanka to get a better education and fell into volunteering through her course at NorthTec.

"I'm studying business management at NorthTec, the education system is different in Sri Lanka so we need to go through government education system and I'm already 28, I didn't have a chance there," she said.

"So on the first day of NorthTec they dragged us to the Volunteering Northland centre and told us all about it. They told us we could volunteer as a firefighter, we could cook, garden."

She said she loves volunteering for the sense of satisfaction she gets out of helping people.

"At the end of the day, I just love that feeling of having done something good and accomplishing something. Whenever they [the migrants] see me now they're excited to see me and I'm like 'yay somebody knows me'," she said.

But volunteering has served another purpose for Kariyawasam - making friends and meeting people.

"Earlier I didn't know anyone here, I was all alone, and now they all know me so that's really good."

The manager of Volunteering Northland, Bart van der Meer, said Kariyawasam's good English is really helpful for the migrants who come through the centre.

"An important motivator is language, when you're around people with good English they learn the language a lot quicker," van der Meer said.