When Dunedin student Georgia Tattersall went to a new school because of its performing arts, she discovered her most fulfilling role yet.
She became part of Bayfield High School’s HOPE Group – “Helping Other People Everywhere”. Among other activities, the group volunteers at Bayfield Kindergarten and Marne Street Hospital.
The group’s teacher mentor, Raymond Spence, says it has been going for 40 years in various forms.
Georgia says she initially moved to the school because of its Performing Arts Programme, however has realised that the group and helping people holds more significance for her.
It sounds cheesy, but it just brings so much joy to see you having a positive impact on other people.”
Asked what she’d say to other young people about volunteering, the 17-year-old replies that “it’s great to give it a go because you never know what you’re going to get out of it and who you’re going to meet and the places you are going to go.
“It’s nice to live in a community and give back to that and show your appreciation sometimes.”
HOPE group grows
When Georgia joined the HOPE Group two-and-a-half years ago, it consisted of a few senior students, however has now grown to about 30 students including juniors.
They meet over snacks before school every second Friday morning to chat about current world and local issues. Georgia says it is a nice time at the end of the week in which to slow down and reflect.
On alternate Friday lunchtimes, the group and interested friends visit the nearby aged care hospital and kindergarten.
It’s really nice to go there and connect with people…it’s nice knowing those places are there and having those connections outside of school.”
At the rest home, they play games and have a good chat with the residents. When New Zealanders were isolated at home during the autumn Covid-19 prevention measures, students sent presentations containing nice quotes and stories for their older friends.
Georgia observes that while it was easier for most young people to remain connected during the lockdown, it was harder for senior citizens in rest homes who weren’t allowed visitors.
One HOPE Group participant recently created paper mache and origami butterflies to brighten the residents’ days. Residents are still quarantined and the students can’t yet visit, however they hope to later in July.
At the kindergarten, the teenagers play games with the children, who are always eager to involve the students in what they are doing.
“The children love to see us,” Georgia says.
“At the end of it, it’s like you’ve made a new friend. They’re sad to see us go…and we’re sad to go.”
Assisting the school
In addition to helping people in its community, the HOPE Group assists at school: giving Year 9 pupils ice-cream at Orientation, making study packs to cheer up exam students, selling ice-cream and Easter hot cross buns to raise money and spending time at the Student Support Centre for those with diverse learning needs.
“They’re a massive part of Bayfield, they really lift the mood and I don’t think the school would be the same without them,” Georgia says.
This year group members organised the World Vision 40 Hour Famine at the school and the funds raised increased from $2,659.60 in 2019 to $5,037.30 so far this year. The money goes to families affected by droughts and cyclones in Malawi.
Georgia’s outward focus also includes being a Trade Aid volunteer, which the Year 13 student hopes to continue doing after finishing school at the end of this year.
Leisa de Klerk, the Manager of Volunteer South, formerly Volunteering Otago, says approximately 232,000 people throughout New Zealand volunteered, contributing about 159 million hours and about $4 billion to the economy in 2019.
Hundreds of roles are available in more than 300 volunteer organisations, ranging from fabric sorting to meals on wheels and helping endangered birds to supporting a board of trustees.
“There are a lot of choices that can suit a range of different interests, time commitments and experience with volunteering,” Leisa says.
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