Paul Topp



The closing of St John’s Op shop quickly followed by the national Lockdown meant that life changed very quickly for Paul Topp. He had found his role as part of the Op Shop team after experiencing a life-changing accident reducing his mobility and leaving him managing painful after-effects. He credits a friend with giving him the push he needed to get him out of his shell, encouraging him to register at the Gisborne Volunteer Centre.

He found two things impacted him the most during Lockdown; a lack of routine which had developed around the days he was volunteering and the face to face interaction with people; both his team and the customers that would come into the shop. Lockdown was a long period of isolation and Paul observes that he did become a bit of a recluse. Although he maintained contact with his former colleagues through social media Paul found it was no substitute for face to face chatting. He kept himself busy working with his orchids, repotting, grafting, labelling, breeding them and making wooden hanging baskets. As restrictions eased he has been able to meet up with former op shop colleagues for a coffee, visiting their former store manager and re-establishing those connections.

Looking back Paul acknowledges that he felt ready to do something other than sitting around feeling sorry for himself. His volunteering role became a way to find a new way of being after his accident, and the camaraderie, friendship and sense of purpose he found there went a long way in aiding his recovery and wellbeing.



His shifts in the op shop brought many unexpected things into Paul’s life; the varied tasks within his role utilised many of the skills he brought from his prior life as a business owner, contractor and orchid grower. Paul was happy to lend his hand to most things and jokes that he became a very good listener considering that he was often the only male volunteer during his volunteer shifts— shifts he describes as being full of laughter and lots of talking.


He found two things impacted him the most during Lockdown; a lack of routine which had developed around the days he was volunteering and the face to face interaction with people; both his team and the customers that would come into the shop. Lockdown was a long period of isolation and Paul observes that he did become a bit of a recluse. Although he maintained contact with his former colleagues through social media Paul found it was no substitute for face to face chatting. He kept himself busy working with his orchids, repotting, grafting, labelling, breeding them and making wooden hanging baskets. As restrictions eased he has been able to meet up with former op shop colleagues for a coffee, visiting their former store manager and re-establishing those connections.



Paul’s plans now include more volunteering and he has recently committed to becoming the treasurer for the Gisborne Stroke Support group. He is also open to other volunteering positions and looks forward with interest to what these new opportunities may bring. Paul credits volunteering with bringing a lot of positives to his life -

“Volunteering got my life going again, it gave me something to look forward to each week and made me feel better about myself.”