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
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.