Chat­ting across the gen­er­a­tions


As we cel­e­brate Na­tional Vol­un­teer Week, I ex­pe­ri­enced a lit­tle ray of sun­shine amidst the in­ver­sion in Wanaka re­cently.

I met with 17-year-old Pa­trick Gains­ford who, as part of the Mount As­pir­ing Col­lege Stu­dents in the Com­mu­nity pro­gramme, spends a few hours a week vis­it­ing res­i­dents Bar­bara Cruick­shank, who is 100, and Reg Dea­son, 99, at Elm­slie House.

Stu­dents in the Com­mu­nity is a stu­dent vol­un­teer­ing pro­gramme that has been run­ning for 22 years. Year 13 stu­dents are re­quired to vol­un­teer lo­cally, where they share their time, skills and en­thu­si­asm to make the Up­per Clutha a bet­ter place.

Pa­trick moved to Wanaka from In­ver­cargill three years ago. He loves liv­ing here and is pas­sion­ate about MAC.

‘‘It’s an ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic school, there is some­thing re­ally spe­cial about its cul­ture and an im­por­tant part of the pro­gramme is rep­re­sent­ing MAC and show­cas­ing its amaz­ing stu­dents to the wider com­mu­nity. It’s great to be able to get out there and put some­thing back,’’ he said.

Stu­dents in the Com­mu­nity co­or­di­na­tor Liz Bres­lin helps stu­dents iden­tify roles that they are go­ing to en­joy and bring some­thing to, Pa­trick ex­plains.

‘‘I’m a peo­ple per­son, so hang­ing out with Bar­bara and Reg was an ob­vi­ous choice for me. I value their opin­ions and life ex­pe­ri­ences and en­joy hear­ing about life be­fore I was around. Some­times Reg sings or plays the pi­ano and some­times we just chat. I love hear­ing Reg talk about his in­volve­ment in World War II. It’s quite a tough sub­ject to talk about, so it feels quite spe­cial be­ing

Gil­lian White

able to talk to him about it. I get a great feel­ing from meet­ing them, hope­fully I im­prove their day and they en­joy hav­ing some­one to talk to as much as I en­joy talk­ing to them.’’

On the day I vis­ited, it was just Pa­trick and Bar­bara, as Reg was un­well. The pair clearly get on well. I asked Bar­bara what she en­joys about Pa­trick’s vis­its.

‘‘It’s so nice hav­ing some­one sen­si­ble to talk to, he’s so easy to chat to, es­pe­cially as the res­i­dents are of­ten asleep!’’ jokes Bar­bara.

Pa­trick has also vol­un­teered to raise funds for his friend Hamish McLean’s Olympic bid, for the MAC sail­ing team, and is the stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the school’s board of trus­tees. He en­joys get­ting in­volved in things he is pas­sion­ate about and feels this is just the start of his vol­un­teer­ing jour­ney, which he plans to con­tinue when he goes to univer­sity.

So what would Pa­trick say to oth­ers con­sid­er­ing vol­un­teer­ing?

‘‘Go for it. Think about what you en­joy – if you en­joy it, it will be eas­ier and more fun. It’s cliche´d, but it re­ally does make you feel good in­side. Be bold in the fact you can re­ally go for it. Don’t do it by halves, put in the time and ef­fort, there is no bad in it at all.’’

❚ Gil­lian White is se­nior co-or­di­na­tor for Vol­un­teer­ing Cen­tral, an ini­tia­tive of Cen­tral Lakes Trust which seeks to raise aware­ness of and sup­port vol­un­teer­ing across the Cen­tral Otago Lakes Dis­trict.

Pa­trick Gains­ford

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