Volunteering in COVID19
When it was announced that New Zealand was going into Lockdown and people were busy preparing for an uncertain time, Sue and Steve Evett headed straight for the Gisborne Volunteer Centre. They were concerned about how the pandemic might affect the aged, disabled and vulnerable within the Tairãwhiti community and their first thought was— how can we help? At the time organisations were busy trying to interpret the restrictions at each level and whether volunteers could volunteer safely. For a period of time, possibly for the first time since they arrived in New Zealand from the United Kingdom, Sue and Steve found themselves ‘on leave’ from their normal routine of working as self-confessed professional volunteers.
Almost as soon as they arrived in New Zealand, a place they both refer to as paradise, they quickly became involved in a number of community groups as well as making themselves available for community events. This often meant that one or both of them were contributing in some way, every day of the week. They found that Lockdown was an unusual but lovely little break, shadowed only by their concern for family back in the UK and the situation unfolding there. Both Sue and Steve are incredibly grateful for the political leadership and management of the pandemic they experienced here in New Zealand, within the community that they both love and contribute to every day.
Steve who is usually involved in the Tairāwhiti Menzshed and The Coffin Club found that he was so used to being out and about and busy it was an adjustment to have some free time. Their days didn’t have the usual structure that such a busy volunteering schedule brings and he found it disconcerting to have no reason to get up, and no real sense of purpose. The couple both find volunteering a way of giving back to the community that is meaningful and missed their usual social contact, especially chatting with colleagues and making new friends. Sue’s normal volunteering roles include working in the Hospice Shop and visiting an elderly woman living on her own. Sue really missed this contact and was concerned for people feeling isolated during Lockdown. Fortunately, Sue was able to pick up a new volunteering role for Member of Parliament Kiri Allan, ringing local constituents and checking in to see how they were faring during the pandemic. Sue was humbled by how appreciative people were of the phone calls and was glad she was able to reach out and connect during a time when many people felt fearful and isolated.
As restrictions have eased the Evett’s have gradually increased their volunteering involvements. You can tell by the way this couple speak about their volunteering that it is an essential and rewarding element of their lives. They are proud of the work that they do but most of all they are grateful that they are in a position to give back to the community and the country that they refer to as “the most beautiful place on earth.”
“We are ever so grateful to be here,” they say but it may be the people within Tairāwhiti who are lucky to have them and who are ever so grateful for the very special skills and aroha that they bring to our community every day.