Volunteering critical thread of rural fabric

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When new Volunteering Central co-ordinator Lucy Shea arrived in Cromwell in September, she was immediately struck by how helpful everyone was.

“It was just so easy. It didn’t matter what service we were using, everyone was so helpful and nice.”

Mrs Shea moved from the outskirts of London with her husband, Regan, and two children, Lily (6) and Jessica (3). Although it was quite a big step in their lives, the transition to Cromwell had been very enjoyable, she said.

One aspect of New Zealand life Mrs Shea noticed was how important volunteering was, especially in more rural areas.

Emergency services such as fire and ambulance were hugely dependent on volunteers, Mrs Shea said.

The value of volunteering was something she felt passionately about.

“I was employed by Diabetes UK for about 12 years, working with volunteers to help raise awareness of diabetes,” Mrs Shea said.

“I always wanted to get into the charity sector, mainly because of the satisfaction that comes from working with people who were helping others.

“Seeing people giving their time and resources to help better someone else’s life is quite humbling.”

People came to volunteering for different reasons, Mrs Shea said.

“They could be younger and looking for work experience, which is fantastic, because it might mean that their time volunteering is a short one, but actually what they could give in terms of skills can sometimes be quite great.”

People who had retired were perfect for volunteering as they had valuable experience to give, she said.

“Or perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with a long-term condition that motivates you to get involved to help the cause.

“I think that once people start volunteering they find they get quite a lot out of it as well.”

Mrs Shea said her role at Volunteering Central was about helping volunteers find the best way they could help others.

“Volunteering central is a connection service, so we build relationships with organisations that need volunteers, and we can then match that in with people who want to volunteer.

“You can use volunteering to add to your own life,” Mrs Shea said.

“There will always be something to meet everyone’s needs.”