This week is National Volunteer Week 2019. It celebrates the “collective contribution of the 1.2 million volunteers who enrich Aotearoa New Zealand”.
Hundreds of volunteers across New Zealand help make Youthline what it is. They give their time in the office, at events, on our Governance Boards, and through our Youth Advisory Groups.
250 of those volunteers give their time, energy and best listening ears to Youthline as Helpline Counsellors and for that we are super proud and thankful! We know that without them, there would be no Youthline.
Last year our volunteers collectively spent 12,137 hours in our Hubs standing alongside young Kiwis, reflecting, affirming and helping them grow.
“More than 60% of our Helpline is staffed by volunteers, by members of our community who want to give their time to connect with young people when they need it most, it absolutely blows me away. National Volunteer Week is always a time for me to pause and reflect on how lucky we are as an organisation, and as communities, that we are surrounded by such giving individuals,” says Youthline CEO Shae Ronald.
To mark the occasion we have chosen to celebrate four outstanding volunteers from around the country.
A trip to Zambia was Lara Watson’s first foray into volunteering. She had just turned 18 and chose to defer university for a year to teach children in Zambia.
Lara volunteers for Youthline in Christchurch.
“Lara throws herself into anything extra that’s going - staffing our outreach stalls, coming to every counselling skills extension training, developing training resources, and representing us at a Youth Workers hui”, says Youthline Central South Island Manager Trystan Swain.
Now 21, Lara’s dream is to one day become a Clinical Psychologist and she says Youthline is helping to pave that path.
“It’s a very competitive field to get into but Youthline has given me so much experience. It’s made me realise that I want it even more.”
That experience was tested on 15 March 2019 when two mosques in Christchurch came under terrorist attack during Friday prayer.
“I was booked in for a shift that night, and my trainee and I were the only volunteers rostered on across New Zealand. We cancelled our shift as we didn't feel safe going into the office across town, and were understandably emotional. I asked our centre manager to contact the other managers across NZ to try to rally up some volunteers from other cities, and in a matter of an hour or so the roster was full right up until we closed our regular service at midnight! It amazed me the level of support I felt from other Youthliners.”
Lara wants young people to know that that level of support is there for them too.
Youthline volunteer Linda Vernon knows how it feels to be unhappy.
“In my late teens and early 20s I had a really difficult time with my mental health, and struggled with depression and anxiety. Through my recovery I had this idea of giving service to my community - that it would be beneficial for me and my wellbeing. And I liked the idea of counselling and helping people.”
But although Linda knew Youthline was there, she had never used the helpline herself.
“I think because of the kind of space I was in, I felt like no one would understand me. I was scared to reach out, like a lot of young people - because they don’t know what to expect or they think they’re going to be told what to do or told that they’re crazy. I wish that I had known how client centred Youthline is. We don’t tell people who contact us what to do or how to live their lives or how they should feel, we’re actually there for them.”
Volunteering is in Marea Nicolle’s blood.
Her grandparents volunteered for Lifeline in Invercargill in the 1980s and her parents, both teachers, regularly cared for foster children alongside three of their own.
The 37 year old learning and development coach has been volunteering for Youthline since she was 21, and is Youthline Wellington’s longest serving Group Supervisor.
“I’d heard great things about the organisation and was passionate about supporting young people and making a difference. I felt like there was something missing in my life. I wanted to be part of a community.”
And Marea says that’s exactly what Youthline is.
Mac Jordan is a self-described altruist.
“My main interest in volunteering is that there is no ulterior motive. For me, it’s about providing value. The act in itself is rewarding enough. Stopping someone from ending their life is a very powerful thing to do.”
The 23 year old Psychology and Fine Arts Honours student has volunteered for Youthline Auckland Central for the last 2 and a half years. He recently joined the facilitator team and mentors every week, providing support and feedback for trainees on the helpline.
It’s been hugely rewarding to be able to strengthen others, provide support so they can grow, and deliver feedback in a way that further facilitates that growth.”
Mac says that growth is vital to meeting demand and providing excellent service.
“Youth suicide rates in New Zealand are absurd, particularly among Maori and Pasifika. Based on personal experience clients do seem to respond really well to us.”