"It's the Tinder site for volunteers, swipe right and we'll match you."
Those are the words of Volunteer Great Lake Taupō founder Joan McBeath who, rather than facilitating hook-ups like the popular dating app, is matching volunteers with groups in need.
Thanks to a joint show of support from individuals, businesses and organisations, the Taupō Council of Social Services initiative is now more visible than ever with a brightly signwritten caravan to park around town.
"Over the past couple of months, I've got a whole lot of organisations on board who want to be part of this. They are all crying out for volunteers with a range of skills and experience.
"At the same time, I have people coming to me who want to volunteer in some way but aren't sure where to begin. We're also working with people who are already volunteers, if they need support, want help or a change of direction.
"The caravan means I can park in public spaces and anyone can pop their head in for a chat. It is attracting so much attention, it's absolutely working. "
The caravan is doing such a good job at attracting attention that the interview for this article was done in parts as, while parked up at Pak'nSave Taupō, multiple members of the public popped their heads in to see what it is all about.
The caravan, its signwriting and the car that will pull it around - and also be signwritten - were made possible by the generous sponsorship of people and groups in the community. The sign writing itself was done by technician Devon Garmonsway at Sign On in Taupō, in her own time.
"When Devon asked what I wanted for the caravan, I said 'I want to be seen'. She's certainly achieved that," Joan says.
"There are so many people that have helped make this possible and they all deserve a massive shout-out. The whole thing, the caravan, the car, the running costs, the signage has all been sponsored by the community. It has been amazing."
The support shown by the community and the engagement with volunteers and organisations so far has validated Joan's idea that the service was needed.
"You take a gamble when you do something like this but I've always thought 'why would I sit in an office, in a building, God knows where?' when you can do something like this and be visible.
"In between people coming in, I'm on my computer, I'm working, I mean what a cool place to work, watching the world go by outside the caravan. It's really cool, I would recommend everyone have an office like this."
She hopes the caravan will encourage more volunteers to take the next step.
"The main aim now is to get more volunteers. I've got a lot of organisations, I need more because there are a lot in the community but they're coming in through word of mouth.
"Now I just need to get out in the community, be as visible as possible and get more volunteers signed up."
Joan says volunteering provides a win-win situation for individuals and groups.
"It's fun and it's good for both sides. The organisations rely on them but it's also brilliant and fulfilling for the people doing it.
"I had someone come in the other day, who had just arrived in Taupō to live and didn't know anyone. How do you meet people? Go volunteering.
"The other good thing about volunteering is you can choose something that suits your interests and skills, there's absolutely something for everyone, whether it's animals, the elderly, kids, and you can choose something that fits your time commitments."
The initiative is aimed at helping groups be matched with volunteers throughout the whole district and Joan has plans to take the caravan to other towns such as Tūrangi and Mangakino in the near future.
"I'm sort of feeling my way, finding out how it works and what works best, then I'll venture out."
- Keep an eye out for the caravan at events and businesses, and search for Volunteer Great Lake Taupō on Facebook.