After spending the whole first semester and New Zealand summer travelling, meeting new people and enjoying myself I felt a need to devote some of my free time during the second semester for giving back to the community which so kindly welcomed me in the first place. After a bit of research I e-mailed a couple of volunteering organisations asking whether they would like an extra pair of hands.
Elizabeth Knox care home & hospital caught my attention instantly and were also the first ones to answer my inquiry. Knox is well-known for their alternative way of running the care home. Their principles involve but are not limited to the companionship to combat the loneliness, opportunities to give and receive care which fight the feeling of helplessness, and an environment providing a regular contact with animals, plants and children. The first time I entered the building I saw a cat passing me by, a group of elders playing Bingo and another group of them solving a crossword on a massive board in front of them. A number of young volunteers were wondering around the building, chatting to the residents or going with them for a walk. I liked what I saw.
After an informal interview I was welcomed to the volunteer team. Every other week I spent a couple of hours helping out in the Physio room which was always full of residents ready to start their day with some exercise. Other weeks I would come to the volunteer training sessions which focused on communication, story-telling and other social skills needed in a volunteer role. Besides meeting a lot of volunteers I got a chance to build stronger relationships with a few elder residents who I came back to and spent an hour chatting every time I went to Knox.
At the end of my stay in New Zealand and Knox I got a chance to volunteer and contribute to a ‘Gardens of Knowledge’ project at Knox. Together with other volunteers, City of Auckland Council members, young scouts and a group of girls from a nearby school we created a vegetable garden for the elderly residents in Knox care home.
It was such a great feeling working together with a group of very diverse people I just met and implementing such a wonderful idea. The residents (even those in wheelchairs) will be able to pick and taste whatever vegetables, herbs or berries they like from the garden and will still feel connected to the nature even while living at Knox.
So here it is, my short volunteering experience in New Zealand:).