Jolene trades her way to Africa
Jolene O’Connor is saving the world one piece of signed sports memorabilia at a time.
The bike courier from Grey Lynn is on a mission to raise $11,500 for a trip to volunteer in Tanzania in January.
As well as working six days a week, the 27-yearold has been fundraising by collecting signed celebrity items that she plans to auction off on TradeMe next week.
The items that have been donated include a signed All Blacks rugby ball, a vest signed by gold-winning Olympic athlete Tom Ashley, a rugby league jersey signed by the Kiwis, an original sketch from the bro’Town animators and many other signed CDs and pieces of clothing.
Jolene says it was hard work getting the collection together.
Her main tactic was approaching strangers while out cycling and asking if they happened to know anyone famous.
“I would basically ask anyone and everyone,” she says.
“It’s always awkward in those first few moments when they look at you like you’re crazy.”
She still has no idea how much the auctions will fetch but hopes it will be enough to get her to Tanzania.
“It’s a bit nerve-wracking really.”
Travelling with volunteer organisation Students Partnership Worldwide, Jolene will be based in a village educating children on health with the main aim of preventing AIDS.
A training course when she arrives will teach her everything she needs to know, including the basics of the Swahili language.
Born and raised in South Africa, Jolene says her upbringing can probably give her some idea of what to expect in Tanzania but she knows it will be very different.
“I’m sure I will get a culture shock.”
A bit of a “searcher”, her career so far has included everything from beauty therapist to bike courier.
But Jolene says she knows humanitarian work is where her path really lies.
“I know what I want to do with my life now,” she says.
“I’ve got to a point where it’s not all about me anymore.”
The volunteer period is for nine months but she hopes to carry on after that.
“I’m really hoping once I’m there another door will open.”
Jolene’s TradeMe auctions will start on Monday night and run for a week.
She is also holding a garage sale in the Grey Lynn Community Centre on Sunday selling old clothes and secondhand items and is also selling raffle tickets for a $1600 diamond necklace donated by Guthries Jewellers.
Donations can also be made at the website www. fundraiseonline.com.au/ joleneoconnor.
Going once: Jolene O’Connor hopes a TradeMe auction of signed celebrity merchandise will help her get to Tanzania.