2020 Minister of Health Volunteer Award recipients

Read about the recipients of the 2020 Volunteer Awards.

On this page:

Health Volunteer of the Year

Outstanding Achievement – Patricia (Patu) Sigley

Patricia (Patu) Sigley

The 2020 Health Volunteer of the Year is Patricia (Patu) Sigley, nominated by Kororareka Marae Society.

From 1966 until she retired five years ago, Patu worked as a nurse in small, isolated rural Māori communities mainly in the Mid North, Bay of Islands. While nursing was her day job, she also spent a large part of her non-work time volunteering, a practice she has continued in her retirement. Her colleagues describe her as a person who is ‘always on voluntary duty’, and an inspiration.

Patu’s diverse volunteering activities include:

  • helping to establish and run hauora clinics in Russell, for both the people of Russell and the surrounding communities of Waikare, Rawhiti, Ngaiotonga and Okiato, including marae-based eye and podiatry clinics and sessions on health and wellbeing
  • volunteering for the Kawakawa rural ambulance service for 30 years
  • assisting people with everyday tasks, such as shopping and cleaning up, as well as holding someone’s hand during sad times
  • assisting kuia and kaumātua into pensioner housing
  • helping people transition from prison to community living
  • making people aware of the COVID-19 testing available and how to access it
  • assisting with the distribution of food parcels to families and whānau during COVID-19 and being available 24/7 to take their calls
  • coordinating and supporting communities and medical practitioners with flu injections and COVID-19 testing in Kororareka/Russell.

With her immense drive and passion for nursing, her love for her many communities, and her ability to work across various agencies, Patu has been able to coordinate the right people at the right time to get the right results. It’s what she does whether it’s a health matter, whānau experience, social or educational unmet need.

Health Care Provider Service Team Volunteers

Outstanding Achievement – SuperGrans Mentoring Manawatu

SuperGrans Mentoring Manawatu

SuperGrans Mentoring Manawatu was founded in 2005 by SuperGrans Aotearoa. SuperGrans’ vision is to have skills and knowledge flowing between generations and communities.

In the Manawatu area, around 25 SuperGrans are actively fulfilling this vision by passing on skills for healthy, low-impact budget living. They do this through one-on-one in-home mentoring and hands-on workshops, providing participants with the chance to develop practical skills such as cooking, sewing, gardening and budgeting – skills that will assist people in their daily lives and help them flourish.

Volunteers visit the clients weekly in their homes and help them towards their chosen goals. They also host a variety of events, classes and workshops. Attendance numbers are kept low so that every participant can get the most out of the experience.

When the SuperGrans aren’t mentoring, they are busy creating merino wool blankets to keep babies warm. They’ve been doing this for many years and it’s much appreciated within Palmerston North Hospital’s Healthy Women, Youth and Child Cluster.

Runner-up – Companion Volunteers

Companion Volunteers

For the past four years, the Companion Volunteers on Auckland City Hospital’s reablement wards have been providing non-clinical care for patients and their whānau through one-on-one patient interactions as well as group sessions. They help build a connection between the outside world and the hospital and its patients.

Companion Volunteers help with arts and crafts group sessions, patient feedback rounds, speech therapy practice and mealtimes, or simply play games and provide conversation and general companionship. They even put on small concerts. Many of the volunteers are migrants, bringing with them a multicultural perspective and a desire to contribute to society.

Due to its success in the reablement wards, the Companion Volunteer programme is now being extended throughout Auckland City Hospital.

This award recognises four Companion Volunteers from the larger team of 80 volunteers:

  • Malia Meni
  • Peggy Bindel
  • Rocio Corona
  • Trisna Putri.

Runner-up – Knitters, Sewers and Quilters Team

Kinitters, Sewers and Quilters Team

For 15 years, Wellington Hospitals Foundation’s Knitters, Sewers and Quilters Team has been making garments and other items for babies, children and their families at Wellington and Kenepuru Hospitals.

They create warm woollen singlets, cardigans, blankets, booties and beanies for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and birthing units. Families can select items to take home and midwives are supplied with packs of knitting to distribute in the community. Tiny little articles are lovingly created for families who lose a baby so they can dress them before saying goodbye, and special items are given to new mothers on Mother’s Day and babies at Christmas.

The team of 228 volunteers makes about 9,000 items each year, which are much appreciated among the families receiving them.

Runner-up – Sammy Milne, The Upstairs Gallery and its community members

Sammy Milne, The Upstairs Gallery

Recognising the positive effect arts can have on mental health for both the viewer and the artist Sammy Milne, manager and curator of The Upstairs Gallery responded to an opportunity in the early stages of COVID-19 to give the community a sense of purpose in uncertain times by sharing its creativity in a show of support for essential health workers.

Working with the Well Foundation, The Upstairs Gallery used social media to encourage the local community to create art during lockdown and donate it to Waitematā District Health Board. ‘We show you our (he)art’ was born and the community responded with over 85 pieces of art, including photos, paintings and cuddly toys. The artwork was accompanied by messages of support.

Some of this artwork will be chosen for permanent display in Waitematā District Health Board hospitals and community sites.

Health Care Provider Service Individual Winners

Outstanding Achievement – Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor is one of Waitematā District Health Board’s sustainability volunteers. Every fortnight he collects polyvinylchloride (PVC) IV bags throughout North Shore Hospital and takes them to the basement in a special bin. From there, the PVC waste goes to Otaki, where a recycling company turns it into industrial and children’s playground matting for distribution locally and overseas.

Peter is legally blind and catches a bus to his shift at North Shore Hospital. He spent his early time as a volunteer there familiarising himself with the hospital’s 10 floors to be sure he could successfully complete his duties. He has now been supporting the hospital for three years.

Peter’s contribution not only reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfill but also gives clinical staff more time to focus on patients.

Runner-up – Dr Jennie Lewis

Dr Jennie Lewis

Dr Jennie Lewis has been a volunteer general practitioner at Servants Health Centre in Dunedin for the past 10 years. Servants Health Centre is a charitable general practice that provides free health care services to those who are struggling financially.

Every Thursday from 9am to 2pm, Jennie works with the most difficult and challenging cases, including those involving people who are homeless or unemployed or who have substance addiction or mental health issues.

Patients know Jennie will take time to listen to them and provide high-quality and compassionate care.

Runner-up – Peter Waskowsky

Peter Waskowsky

Peter Waskowsky has been a volunteer ambulance officer in Russell since 2004. He successfully studied to become a paramedic in 2007 and an upskilled paramedic two years later. He is now a fully qualified volunteer paramedic.

There are very few volunteer paramedics in New Zealand. By studying to become a paramedic, Peter has helped provide the best service possible for his community. As well as providing care that benefits the community, Peter has ensured the rest of the crew receive a high standard of training. He recruits new volunteers and passes on his knowledge and experience. His fundraising efforts help secure the best equipment available for the St John Ambulance station in Russell.

Peter has also done his utmost to keep the volunteer roster covered as close to 100 percent as possible by volunteering many thousands of hours himself.

Community or NGO Health Service Team Awards

Outstanding Achievement – Mentors of Wāhine Connect

Wāhine Connect is a nationwide social and professional network that supports New Zealand women who work in medicine and health. It matches women who are seeking guidance to mentors who support these relationships with a structured mentoring programme.

More than 350 professional women belong to Wāhine Connect’s mentor team, including doctors, nurses, policy makers, researchers, medical entrepreneurs, chief executives and physiotherapists. Mentors from Māori, Pacific, LGBTIQ and immigrant communities are well represented.

The mentors provide virtual or face-to-face support for other women in the health sector (mentees) and they do this outside of their demanding day jobs. Many have been with the programme since its beginnings in mid-2017, growing an idea into a thriving programme that has so far directly helped more than 200 mentees. As well as mentoring, they contribute to the programme’s governance and operating needs.

Runner up – Hutt Buddies

Hutt Buddies

Hutt Buddies at Te Whare Ahuru, Hutt Hospital’s mental health unit, is a team of nine culturally diverse volunteers and a coordinator who have all experienced some form of mental distress in their lives. Most of them have been patients in the ward themselves. They have since undergone training to become a Buddy, which has involved participating in workshops focused on areas such as de-escalation techniques, ethics and reframing language.

The Buddies form empathetic bonds with the patients in the ward, known as ‘peers’. They meet in the unit’s courtyard for a chat and some food. Sometimes they sit in silence, just being there shows they care. If a Buddy becomes concerned for a peer’s welfare, they will seek professional assistance. 

Hutt Buddies is a service that not only makes a difference to the peers, but over time benefits the wellbeing and self-development of each Buddy.

Runner up – Library Talking Book Despatch Volunteers

Library Talking Book Despatch Volunteers

Library Talking Book Despatch Volunteers are a team of five, who collectively have more than 80 years of volunteering experience with Blind Low Vision NZ (formerly the Blind Foundation). They are part of the wider library team that delivers 'Talking Book CDs' to New Zealanders who are blind or have low vision. Before CDs existed, the team despatched cassettes.

The volunteers are rostered over the week so that each of them helps with packing, unpacking and mailing the CDs, giving Blind Low Vision NZ’s clients access to their favourite books and current magazines, delivered to the door. The volunteers are:

  • Shelley Grant
  • Kaye Wood
  • Matthew Neighbour
  • Christine Litchfield
  • Annette Lindsay.

Runner up – Taranaki Retreat Peer Support Team

Taranaki Retreat Peer Support Team

Taranaki Retreat offers a range of residential and outreach suicide prevention and long-term support programmes to avoid loss of life and tackle suicidal distress. Each year the team works with over 1,000 whānau.

Whether the aggravating factors are related to drugs, alcohol, housing or relationships, trained peer support workers at Taranaki Retreat are paired with people according to life experience. The peer support workers meet people in their homes and communities throughout New Zealand as well as at the retreat in Taranaki. They give their time alongside clinical support not because they are paid to or have to, but because they care.

Community or NGO Health Service Individual Awards

Outstanding Achievement – Peter Burland

Peter Burland

Peter Burland, who faces his own challenges with cumulative head injuries, has been volunteering with the Brain Injury Association for 25 years.

After serving as a voluntary board member for the Nelson Brain Injury Association, these days he works tirelessly in the Nelson Tasman community to raise awareness of brain injury and support others going through the journey. He provides mentoring and support and gets involved in street appeals and other fundraising.

Peter currently organises and co-hosts a fortnightly radio show on Fresh FM for and by people living with brain injuries, which has been broadcast for the past three years.

Runner up – Claire Gyde

Claire Gyde

Claire Gyde set up the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – Care Action Network (FASD-CAN NZ Inc) in 2013 to unite caregivers, strengthen families, support individuals and educate communities about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Claire networked with key professional personnel in the area of FASD and connected with other parents and caregivers to form a committee that she chairs today.

Over the past seven years, Claire has been a strong advocate for increasing the recognition and support of FASD and having FASD recognised as a disability in New Zealand. She has partnered with other agencies to achieve FASD-informed practice and has provided advice to policy decision-makers and service providers. On top of that, she has contributed to training programmes and community education programmes, created resources and been a guest speaker at international conferences.

Claire has achieved all of this as a volunteer in addition to being in paid work and a parent.

Runner up – Meera Patel

Meera Patel

Meera Patel began volunteering for Anxiety New Zealand Trust after completing helpline volunteer training in 2015. She was promoted to Helpline duty manager. The Anxiety Helpline is a free 24/7 nationwide service that provides support, education and anxiety management for those living with anxiety and for their whānau and friends. Duty manager responsibilities include supporting junior volunteers during their shifts, helping callers with complex needs, facilitating debriefing groups at helpline meetings and assisting with role-play supervision at volunteer training.

Over the years Meera has assisted hundreds of anxious callers and family members and supported many junior volunteers. She has also boosted volunteer morale by running social events and other fun activities for the team. Meera is just 23 years of age.

Runner up – Warrick Jacobson

Warrick Jacobson

Warrick Jacobson is one of the Horowhenua Alzheimers Society’s volunteers, known affectionately as its ‘driver extraordinaire’. Operating four days a week, Horowhenua services include a day programme with cognitive stimulation therapy and exercise programmes for those affected by dementia. If clients can’t get there on their own, Warrick drives them to and from this service at the Marion Kennedy Centre in Levin. He has been doing this for over a year, because he knows how much his wife enjoyed taking part in this programme.

Warrick also set up and currently manages a memory café in Levin. For all those carers who have lost a loved one or whose loved one has moved into residential care, this café offers a chance to socially connect with others who may be going through similar experiences.

Māori Health Volunteer Award

Outstanding Achievement – Patricia (Patu) Sigley

Patricia (Patu) Whakairi Sigley was also the 2020 Health Volunteer of the Year.

Runner-up – Piki Thomas

Piki Thomas

During COVID-19 lockdown, Ngāti Pikiao leader Piki Thomas on behalf of Te Arawa Whānau Ora led the distribution of nearly 20,000 hygiene and sanitation packs to whānau across the Waiariki region.

Piki secured a suitably sized warehouse at no cost and set up risk management and health and safety plans to make the environment safe for up to 60 volunteers who helped him each day. His workforce plan included daily health checks, infection control training, and monitoring and tracking processes. After working long hours on the site, he completed administrative work in the evening so that everyone knew their role and had the tools they needed to do their job well.

The distribution of these packs was a significant part of a wider iwi response plan called Te Arawa COVID-19 Hub. This collaboration of marae, hapū and organisations across Te Arawa region was established to support people and communities through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pacific Health Volunteer Award

Outstanding Achievement – Coco Tuffery

Coco Tuffery

Coco Tuffery has made a big contribution to her community through the Pacific Health Plus medical practice in Porirua.

When New Zealand went into COVID-19 lockdown and she heard Pacific Health Plus was going to deliver food packages, 16 year old Coco immediately phoned and asked to be part of the team.

She quickly became an active team member – shopping, packing parcels, phoning recipients and making deliveries. She developed her own database to keep track of packages, which Pacific Health Plus incorporated into its wider database. She also helped out at the medical practice, answering the phones, booking appointments and ensuring patients were comfortable.

Coco did all this while continuing her school studies online.

Youth Health Volunteer Team Award

Outstanding Achievement – Student Volunteer Army COVID-19 Response Team

Student Volunteer Army COVID-19 Response Team

The Student Volunteer Army COVID-19 Response Team swung into action quickly to help with the COVID-19 pandemic response and was ready to act when New Zealand went into lockdown.

The team recruited more than 3,000 volunteers nationwide, partnered with a supermarket chain and built a grocery store entirely staffed by volunteers that was accessible both online and via a call centre. Friendly volunteers delivered groceries contactlessly within 48 hours of ordering, in a service available nationwide.

The team delivered thousands of groceries to those who needed support during lockdown, answering over 1,000 calls for support and working with 52 supermarkets.

As well as fulfilling a functional need in delivering food and other goods, the Student Volunteer Army COVID-19 Response Team provided an important sense of connectivity and friendliness for those who needed it most.

Youth Health Volunteer Individual Award

Outstanding Achievement – Dawn Hangartner

Dawn Hangartner

Dawn Hangartner volunteers for Recreate NZ, which provides tailored adventure, recreational, social and educational programmes and events for young people with disabilities.

Dawn provides friendship and support, making a real effort to get to know the young people participating in the programmes and ensuring they are fully supported in anything they may need. She sees them for more than just their disability and helps them shine as contributing members of society.

She also assists the facilitators who run Recreate’s programmes.

Dawn is studying to become an occupational therapist. She also volunteers with Little Sisters of the Poor and is a Brownie leader and youth group leader.

Long Service Awards

Outstanding Achievement – Lou Rigg

Lou Rigg

Lou Rigg joined the Alzheimers Tauranga/Western Bay of Plenty team as a befriender volunteer in 2004 at the age of 79. Over the years since then she has worked with seven clients who have dementia, visiting them in their homes each week and providing friendship and comfort.

The carer involved in her current visiting role greatly appreciates her support. "Lou is a very nice and interesting person. I can depend on her turning up which allows me when needed to get out and do a few errands. I know Jill is safe and entertained while I am out."

Now at 95 years of age, Lou attends training sessions, gets her visiting notes in on time to read and helps with fundraising and Alzheimers Tauranga/Western Bay of Plenty’s annual appeals. She is a role model for other volunteers and demonstrates that age is no barrier to volunteering.

Runner-up – Henny Vervaat

Henny Vervaat

Henny Vervaat has been volunteering for the Alzheimers Society Marlborough for 18 years.

He began as a volunteer driver and a year later he took on the role of facility maintenance, along with the responsibility of taking care of the organisation’s vehicles. He has continued in both roles up to the present day.

Henny was also a valued member of Alzheimers Society Marlborough’s building committee formed in 2007, where he helped with fundraising and volunteered his many practical skills. His work contributed to the opening of the Society’s new facility in Blenheim in February 2009.

He is referred to as ‘Mr Fix It Man’ and rarely a week goes by without him calling in to do a prearranged job or to see if there is any work that requires his attention.

Runner-up – Shona McLean

Shona McLean

Shona McLean has been Alzheimers Nelson’s ‘dementia support extraordinaire’ for almost 30 years, working tirelessly on a range of tasks to help people affected by dementia in Nelson Tasman.

Shona originally volunteered as office administrative support. With her covering the office, dementia advisors were freed up to visit and support clients in their own homes, which helps reduce their anxiety. She helped keep Alzheimers Nelson’s quarterly newsletter on track for regular publication and went on to lead the update of the information resource library, cataloguing the books and making them more accessible for clients.

Shona also provides support for community education sessions, including early memory loss groups in Nelson and Stoke, and helps organise fundraising events.

Back to top