The 2019 Minister of Health Volunteer Awards were presented on 17 June, during National Volunteer Week, at the Grand Hall Parliament.
Health Volunteer of the Year
The 2019 Health Volunteer of the Year is David Ratū, a Māori warden, who was nominated by Alcohol Healthwatch for his exceptional work in helping to reduce alcohol harm among Māori.
In the past year he has worked with the Police, Auckland Council and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service to ensure that Māori are consulted in relation to liquor licence applications. He provides information and policy advice, advises on tikanga and helps shape the delivery of community-based programmes.
According to James Yallop, Waipiro (Alcohol) Programme Supervisor at Auckland Regional Public Health Service: “David has single-handedly changed the way the Auckland Regional Public Health Service views alcohol-related harm for Māori which has seen a number of changes to our ways of working and processes. This has meant we are giving Māori a voice in alcohol licensing, working together on prevention strategies and ensuring we are meeting our obligations to the Treaty of Waitangi.”
The judges agreed that David’s approach could be applied to improve health outcomes and reduce inequities elsewhere.
Health Care Provider Service Team Volunteers
Winner – Martinborough Community Health Project
In 2017 Martinborough Health Centre developed the Martinborough Healthy Community Project to enhance the health of the local community. Feedback from that community has been very positive, with both physical and social benefits for a growing number of participants.
This project has five complementary components, each run by volunteers:
- a weekly walking group to encourage physical activity and companionship
- a community larder for sharing excess fruit and vegetables
- a community garden on donated land
- a six-week Healthy Lifestyle Programme for people with long term conditions
- a regular Health Bulletin which provides medical and lifestyle information that’s easily understood.
Runner-up – Mercy Parklands Volunteer Programme
The Mercy Parklands Volunteer Programme began in 2014 with 14 volunteers. There are now 222 volunteers providing one-on-one contact at an average of 675 visits a month, helping to boost self-esteem and reduce loneliness. The Mercy Parklands Community is ethnically diverse and this is reflected in the volunteering. Different volunteer roles have been created, so that volunteers of different ages and nationalities can share their skills and interests. In return, migrant volunteers learn about New Zealand culture and way of life. Activities include English language tutoring, gardening, recycling, knit and natter sessions, and the dance for life programme. The volunteers also help staff and assist with fundraising.
Runner-up – Te Aro Health Centre Board of Trustees
Te Aro Health Centre is a not-for-profit primary health care practice providing health services for a very high needs inner city population of 1,200 people. The Board was established in 2007. Board members have full time occupations and lead very busy lives but volunteer their free time. Their main role is to set the strategy and oversee the running of the Medical Centre and ensure its financial viability. They represent the practice with various health initiatives, liaising with government and NGO agencies, in particular those working with the homeless, drug addiction and mental health issues. The current board members are Chair Michael Hoffmann-Body and Graham Goodisson.
Health Care Provider Service Individual Winners
Winner – Jan Pessione
Jan has been volunteering at Central Otago Living Options for the past 19 years, averaging between six and seven hours a week. She provides friendship support, takes people on outings, makes birthday cakes, takes people to Living Options’ weekly training café so they can practice their café skills and as floral artist she brings in fresh flowers each week. She trains staff in sign language and goes to people’s homes to give them a hand with their gardening. She recently travelled to Fiji to support someone who would not have otherwise been able to go. Jan gifted her late daughter’s house to Living Options so people with disabilities in Central Otago would have a warm and comfortable home to live.
Runner-up – Joan Curle
Joan is the Chair of Sands Wellington/Hutt Valley. Sands New Zealand supports families who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or a neonatal death. Twenty years ago, in memory of her son Andrew, Joan started supplying Wellington Hospital with wicker baskets for babies who had died. These days it’s not just wicker baskets, but gowns, wraps, blankets, memory books, and teddies that are also provided, along with support and resources for the bereavement room.
Runner-up – Tui Martin
Tui is known at Lakes District Health Board as the ‘Magazine Trolley Lady’. For the past two years every Wednesday Tui has been collecting the magazine trolley and making her way around wards. She does this despite an Acquired Brain Injury resulting from a car accident, which now affects her gait and partially affects her speech. She is described as a ray of sunshine and a volunteer with a big heart.
Community or NGO Health Service Team Awards
Winner – Volunteer Team at Dementia Canterbury
Thirty volunteers at Dementia Canterbury help people with dementia take part in community based activities such as gardening at local community gardens, walking, swimming, DIY, art, and guided tours of local attractions. As well as arranging the events, they provide transport. There are about 25 activity groups each month, benefitting around 120 people with dementia and their loved ones. The recipients say this has “improved their mood, allowed them to reconnect with past hobbies and learn new skills, make new social connections, boosted their confidence and given them something to look forward to”.
Runner up – Invercargill St John Health Shuttle Team
The Invercargill St John Health Shuttle Team service began in August 2013 and has 25 volunteers. Each year the volunteers collectively drive about 100,000 kilometres and over the past six years have transported more than 6000 patients who would otherwise not have been able to transport themselves or attend important medical appointments. There are always two drivers on duty and friendship they offer is for many a real lifeline in an otherwise isolated existence.
Runner up – Telefriend sight loss service volunteers
Since the early 1990s the Blind Foundation’s Telefriend team has supported thousands of blind and low vision New Zealanders, of all ages, as they come to terms with their sight loss, need a welcome and friendly voice at the end of the phone to talk about the issues and challenges they face, or just need a chat. What makes this team of caring callers different from other similar services is that it is coordinated and run by volunteers who are themselves blind or have low vision.
Community or NGO Health Service Individual Awards
Winner – David Ratū
David was nominated by Alcohol Healthwatch for his work in helping to reduce alcohol harm among Māori. In the past year he has worked with the Police, Auckland Council and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service to ensure Māori are consulted in relation to liquor licence applications. He provides information and policy advice, advises on tikanga and shapes the delivery of community-based programmes. As a result of his work, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service has changed some of its ways of working and processes, to meet its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, and work more closely with Māori on prevention strategies.
David is also Health Volunteer of the Year for 2019.
Runner up – Yvonne Hiskemuller
The New Zealand College of Midwives nominated Yvonne for her role in setting up and chairing the Rotary Community Breast Milk Bank in Canterbury. This community public health initiative is the only one of its kind in New Zealand and is run completely on volunteer hours and fundraising.
Yvonne has been a dedicated lead maternity carer midwife in Christchurch for many years. She is passionate about maternal and infant health and has worked many hundreds of volunteer hours to set up this bank, accessing global research, consulting with interested parties, championing fundraising, providing education to a wide range of community groups, and developing guidelines and protocols for evidence based best practice. Her work has raised awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and breast milk to babies within the wider community and it has also sparked an interest in the development of milk banks in other communities.
Runner up – Yolanda Sutton
Yolanda has been making life easier for people who are disadvantaged through being deaf and helping them develop life skills. Yolanda’s sister Natasha is deaf and five years ago they began running cooking classes for deaf people. Art classes soon followed, along with other activities designed to build life skills and confidence. A drop-in centre was set up. Then they began producing video clips to share recipes and how to cook them. This led to the development of the Deaf Wellbeing Society’s website.
Māori Health Volunteer Award
Winner – Aunty Lovey Hodgkinson and the Te Reo Reka Ukelele Group
The Te Reo Reka Ukelele Group, led by Aunty Lovey Hodgkinson, is a group of kaumātua ranging in age from their early 70s to mid 80s. They regularly play ukulele music across the MidCentral District Health Board district, bringing joy across the Palmerston North Hospital services, aged care facilities and community groups. Te Reo Reka are also helping to calm and lift the spirits of patients in the hospital’s Acute Mental Health Unit, and giving these patients the opportunity to engage with elders and have a chat.
Volunteering has benefits for the kaumātua too, keeping them active and socially engaged.
Pacific Health Volunteer Awards
Winner – Violani ‘llolahia Wills
Known in the Pacific community as the ‘Pacific Nightingale’, Violani has been a registered nurse for over 50 years. When she’s not at work she spends her time visiting unwell Pacific families in their homes. She’s provided them with groceries, heaters, blankets, paid school fees, purchased school uniforms, and paid for petrol, car registrations and warrants of fitness, GP fees, prescriptions and many more things, just to see them meet their needs. These have all been funded by Violani and her husband.
Violani’s passion for the wellbeing of the people in the community has also seen her run budgeting, hygiene and cooking sessions for families who are struggling. She visits Pacific patients in hospital and gives them assistance and support, especially patients who have no families.
Runner-up – Joshua Fuimaono
Josh, who has cerebral palsy, joined YES Disability Resource Centre 10 years ago as a service user. For the past eight years he has been a member of the Youth Engagement Group at YES, putting his qualifications in youth work and graphic design to good use. He developed an interactive information-sharing tool – YES YEG – to make information easy and accessible for other young disabled people. He helped organise the first ever youth with disabilities conference in New Zealand. He participated in Samoan language week to learn more about his culture and language, and was a founding member of PHAB Pasifika, a cultural mixed ability dance group. He’s doing a lot more work in YES’s Pasifika space, and has also taken part in wheelchair rugby and volunteered as a coach and mentor in that sport.
Youth Health Volunteer Team Award
Joint winner – Silverline Otago
Silverline is a student-led, student-focused mental health and wellbeing initiative at the University of Otago. What began as a half year experiment has evolved into a community and a movement, delivering a creative and novel approach to mental health and wellbeing. Since 2017 Silverline has:
- handed out 9000 Silverline wellbeing resources, which are increasingly being asked for by colleges and academics
- held two Silverline student wellbeing festivals, attracting 415 students each year to mental health and wellbeing focused TED-style talks and workshops
- played a key role in delivering the inaugural University Mental Health Awareness Week in 2019
- introduced several new student engagement events, including Bring a Bro to Yoga, Channel the Chat Workshop and Fluoro Fridays
- created MyStory, a platform for students to own and share their mental health struggles with.
In 2019 they were awarded $52,000 of funding from the Ministry of Education to enhance international student wellbeing.
Joint Winner – Reading Buddies from Michael Park School in Auckland
In 2017 Donna Bainbridge, Deputy Principal of Michael Park School in Auckland, came up with the idea of Year 5 students – aged 11 and 12 – visiting residents at Mercy Parklands Hospital to read together and develop meaningful conversation.
Students visit the residents each week between March and the end of November. They learn to interact and care for the residents. They begin to understand many things around the ageing process and associated medical difficulties, and the residents help them with their reading. There are many social and physiological benefits for the residents, including decreased depression and anxiety, and it gives them greater sense of purpose.
Youth Health Volunteer Individual Awards
Winner – Ben Alsop-ten Hove
Ben has made a significant commitment and contribution to promoting rural health as a rewarding career choice. In 2018 when he was president of Grassroots, the University of Auckland Rural Health Club, his team ran the ‘Grow your own’ careers promotion programme for 1,400 young people in 15 rural schools in Northland, Tairawhiti and the Bay of Plenty, as well as rural health experience weekends and rural work experience programmes for health students. Ben is currently Deputy Chair of Students of Rural Health Aotearoa, the national interdisciplinary rural health student’s network.
Runner-up – Kelsey Mauer
Kelsey, aged 16, has been volunteering with Recreate New Zealand for three-and-a-half years. Recreate provides adventure, recreational, social and educational programmes and events for over 400 youth with intellectual disabilities in the Auckland, Christchurch, Bay of Plenty and the Waikato regions. Kelsey volunteers on many of Recreate’s programmes, including holiday programmes, ‘urban youth’ evening programmes, junior adventure weekends, markets and the Auckland Down Syndrome social club events.
Long Service Awards
Joint Winner – Joe Greco
Joe has been volunteering at Wellington’s Compassion Soup Kitchen since 1974, serving meals and assisting in the kitchen on Saturday evenings to ensure a healthy meal is served to those who need it. He also supports and assists the Home of Compassion in many other ways, such as providing food for events.
Joint Winner – George Wright
George is about to celebrate his 77th year of continuous volunteer community service as a member of St John. Over this time he has volunteered first aid services at various sporting and public events, taught CPR and first aid, and put in hundreds of hours supporting ambulance services in Christchurch. He’s contributed to the personal development of many St John members and since 2008 he has led and grown the St John History Unit. His is the largest contribution by any volunteer in St John’s 134-year history.