Wait . . . they’re talk­ing about me!

Ash­leigh is sur­prised at win­ning the Com­mu­nity Spirit Award

Te Puke Times - - NEWS - By STU­ART WHI­TAKER news@tepuke­times.co.nz

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.

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