Wait . . . they’re talking about me!
Ashleigh is surprised at winning the Community Spirit Award
As she sat in the audience at last week’s Trustpower Community Awards, Ashleigh Ngow suddenly realised she was being talked about.
The Te Puke High School head girl from Maketū had been nominated for the Youth Community Spirit Award, but had only gone along to support others from her community.
“Part of the application process was to submit a video and they had to be on YouTube so they were public, so [earlier in the day] I was watching all the other videos and thinking — oh, there’s not a chance [I will win].”
She went with her mum and grandma, wanting to see who did win and to support other nominees from Te Puke and Maketū.
“Then they started reading something out about this girl from Maketū and I was like . . . ‘wait a minute’. I was really surprised because you don’t do stuff to win things, but it was pretty cool.”
Ashleigh’s volunteer work with a range of different groups was a major factor in her winning the award.
She has volunteered for Te Puke Christmas Parade, EmpowermentNZ, Vector Group Charitable Trust and Maketū Youth Emergency Services (YES) where she trained with Maketū Coastguard, Maketū Fire Service, Civil Defence and St John.
She has participated in school CACTUS bootcamps, where she supports others to realise their potential, and attends working bees for Maketū Ongatoro Wetland Society.
She is a student leader for Year 10 school camps, and is championing environmental issues at her school by implementing the Eco Cup Rewards system — encouraging staff and students to use reusable cups.
“I guess I started off doing lots of little things that add up, and it’s all interconnected as well.”
It began when she started going to working bees with the wetland society and tree planting days on Papahikahawai Island.
She was 11 when the MV Rena hit the Astrolabe reef and, desperate to help out, she entered the Mount Busking festival with her brother, donating the money they made to the cause.
“That’s where my environmental passion started. It was terrible when it happened and we wanted to do something to help.” She also helped out with beach clean-up work.
Ashleigh says Steve and Tracey Fawcett from the Vector Group in Te Puke and Clester Eru in Maketū have all helped her.
“Clester has been awesome. I got involved in YES through Clester and through Maketū Rotary. She has been really great connecting me with different groups. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had people like Clester and Tracey and Steve who can see the opportunities and help me to get involved.
“But the reason I do it is I enjoy it and I think it’s important — it’s what I like doing. It’s cool that Maketū has so many groups and our point of difference is that, because we’re so small, we’re all connected and it’s really easy to communicate with everyone and I think that’s why we get so much done.
After finishing school later this year Ashleigh hopes to study environmental science and public relations.
“I want to look at a career as a science communicator — someone who can understand the science behind things and their job is to communicate things in an easy way or present it to people.
But she doesn’t plan on stopping her volunteer work.
“I’m just going to keep my ears out for any other opportunities to do stuff and if it sounds like something I’m interested in I’ll put my hand up.
Maketū Volunteer Coastguard has taken top honours at the Western Bay’s biggest annual celebration of volunteers, the Trustpower Community Awards.
Voluntary groups from Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty gathered with representatives from Trustpower, Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and the community at Classic Flyers to hear how 16 groups and four young people are making an impact in their community.
Trustpower community and communications advisor Abbie Siely says Maketū Volunteer Coastguard stood out to the judges for its realisation of a fundraising project critical to community safety, in addition to its already impressive regular activities.
“Maketū Volunteer Coastguard has devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to fundraising for a new emergency rescue boat.
“The achievement is particularly noteworthy because it was accomplished in addition to the group’s regular work educating the community about water safety and providing support services.
“Activities include working with other emergency services to guide young people through the Youth in Emergency Services (YES) programme. It’s a course that can help set young people on a path of community involvement into adulthood.
“Coastguard runs local education events to empower people to take charge of their own safety at sea. For example, teaching boaties how to safely cross the bar. This annual event is in its fourth year, is completely free of charge, and has undoubtedly prevented accidents.”
Miss Siely said Maketū Volunteer Coastguard’s impact was felt far beyond its town.
“The group engages with the community and supports local events. Coastguard provided safety support to over 150 waka paddling from Maketu¯ to Mount Maunganui in difficult conditions.
“Recognised as a proactive unit, Maketu¯ Volunteer Coastguard supports the community well beyond its shores – offering safety support to events on the lakes in Rotorua.”
For winning the Supreme Award, Maketu¯ Volunteer Coastguard received a framed certificate, a trophy, and $2,000 prize money.
The group will go on to represent Western Bay of Plenty at the 2018 Trustpower National Community Awards, when volunteers from 26 regions from around New Zealand gather in Tauranga next March.
It’s the first time Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty have celebrated together at a single awards function since 2006.
Other winners at last week’s Trustpower Community Awards were:
Youth Community Spirit: Winner Western Bay of Plenty – Ashleigh Ngow
Trustpower Community Awards finalists: Te Puke Toy Library Inc, Paengaroa Kindergarten, Maketu¯ Ongatoro Wetland Society Inc. Trustpower Community Awards recipients: Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club, Rotary Maketu¯. Supreme Winner – Western Bay of Plenty: Maketu¯ Volunteer Coastguard.
MAKETU¯’S Ashleigh Ngow has won the Trustpower Youth Community Spirit Award for Western Bay of Plenty.
FROM left, Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless, Te Puke Gymsport's Jane McKay and Sarah Elliot, Trustpower general manager, customer operations, Fiona Smith, Maketu¯ Coastguard administrator Julie Cross and Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber.