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Student Phillip Chao is the latest nominee in the Herald's Unsung Heroes series, which will reward some of New Zealand's volunteers with a P&O cruise

He volunteers as a youth counsellor, mentors first-year university students, supervises autistic children and is the DJ for Starship's Radio Lollipop - and he is a full-time medical student.

Phillip Chao, 19, is the kind of kid you take home to mum, friend and co-worker Wendy Cuiffe says.

"He's one of those people who is really, really kind. He does so much - and he's so young. He's the sort of person you want your daughter to marry," Ms Cuiffe said.


Mr Chao is in his third year at the University of Auckland, studying towards his six-year joint degree: bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (MBChB).

Mr Chao has been a counsellor for Youthline for the past two years.

A volunteer for Amnesty International and a mentor within the Project K programme, Mr Chao is also known as the popular DJ for Starship hospital's Radio Lollipop.

Mr Chao, a former Auckland Grammar student, said a lot of people asked where he found the time to juggle study and volunteer work.

"The couple of hours I spend, say, a week at one place, I could've been online on Facebook or something," he said. "It just means I have to manage my time better. It's hard, but rewarding."

He has two part-time jobs, one as a call-handler for The Lowdown, an organisation helping youngsters deal with depression, and the other as a tutor for Maori and Pacific Island students in their first year of medicine.

Until recently, he was a teacher aid at a holiday programme for children with autism and a Red Cross collector - all the while keeping a grade A average.

Mr Chao said some of the rewards of helping youngsters, particularly children at Starship hospital, was doubly rewarding, as he was helping mould somebody's future.


"Some of them are connected to drip feeds and things and you come along and they're happy," he said. "It's humbling."