Benefits of volunteering boundless

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Volunteer South officially opens its new Oamaru branch at The Business Hive next week. Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson meets new Waitaki co-ordinator Julia Rata-Te Raki, who has moved back to the South Island after 20 years in Queensland, Australia.

Q Where are you from, Julia?

I’m a born and raised Southlander and whakapapa to Ngati Maniapoto and Kai Tahu.

Q Tell me about your iwi/family and your connection to the Waitaki district.

My husband has connections to Otakou, Puketeraki, Moeraki and Arowhenua – he was bornĀ  in Mosgiel. I was born and raised in Murihiku (Southland). We have three boys – two at schools in Palmerston and our eldest is at Otago Boys’ High School.

Q Why did you decide to move back to Otago?

Lifestyle change was the primary reason. My husband and I talked about our childhoods so much it was time to bring our boys back for good so they could have the same experiences we did as children. I have a passion for maintaining and enhancing the natural environment, kaimoana, the people (I forgot how much friendlier people from the South Island are) and being closer to whanau and friends.

Q What does your new role at Volunteer South involve?

My new role is Waitaki senior co-ordinator. It is my responsibility for the management and delivery of the volunteer centre in Oamaru and to maintain relationships and connections with volunteers and organisations across North Otago.

Q What interested you in the role?

I have been a volunteer and volunteer co-ordinator for more than 10 years. I have worked on a number of community projects with schools, local clubs and various other non-profit organisations. I am still currently on a non-profit committee in Australia because they and I still feel I can contribute significantly to their causes. I want to be part of connecting volunteers to organisations that value and acknowledge them and with Waitaki being a new area the challenge has been set.

Q What are you most looking forward to about it?

Meeting new people, building strong connections and experiencing what North Otago volunteering opportunities there are available. Getting to know the area I and my whanau live in.

Q Why should people become volunteers?

Everyone should volunteer in their local community at least once in their lifetime. It is very rewarding, the benefits are boundless and you can meet very interesting people who could become lifelong friends.

Q What sort of volunteering opportunities are there in North Otago?

I could not yet tell you what opportunities there are currently available but there are many organisations that are very excited that we have finally opened a centre in the Waitaki area.

Q How do you keep yourself busy in your spare time?

Our three boys keep us busy with all their extracurricular activities. As a whanau, we love camping and many water sports activities. I am also completing my environmental management degree, learning Te Reo and I weave. I also work for another non-profit organisation called Whakaruruhau in Dunedin.

  • Volunteer South connects volunteers with organisations and causes they are passionate about so they are able to share their skills, time and energy. It also provides support and resources to organisations that rely on volunteers.