January 15, 2017
Posted in Annual Review, Celebrations, Good news stories, Recognition of Volunteering, Valuing Volunteers tagged Civic engagement, Rewards and Recognition for Volunteering, social innovation at 1:27 am by Sue Hine
Call me a Pollyanna if you like, but I am keeping away from reflections on the trials of 2016 and the foreboding intimations for 2017.
In this no-news-summer-holiday time of the year I am indulging in stories about Local Heroes, the Kiwibank awards made every year all around the country, and announced in November. We’ll get the New Zealander of the Year in late February, and that’s a different order, along with Young New Zealander, Senior New Zealander, New Zealand Innovator and Community of the Year. How we like to ensure all bases are covered.
Local Hero awards turn up a range of stories about the Kiwi’s who are making a difference in our communities. Awarding local people honours the best of us, and reminds us how ordinary people are doing exceptional things, every day. Not all of them are volunteers, but it’s their community involvement and initiatives that we want to celebrate. Not everyone is engaged in a formal organisation: sometimes the hero’s effort is a time-limited local initiative. Some efforts are social enterprise projects.
All sectors of our communities are represented – though that is not a criterion for selection. Details for all regions are available here, showing how wide and how deep is the range of programmes, services, and initiatives.
There are projects supporting people in poverty; programmes for women (and I noted one for men too); a range of health and disability services; a lot related to sports and sporting activity, and even more for youth, from outdoor education camps to teaching water safety. Mentoring for Pacific communities, and cultural programmes for Māori feature in the lists. Arts, Culture and Heritage groups win their share of Heroes, and so do Conservation and Sustainability. There is plenty to be proud of in projects that illustrate the best of Advocacy and Innovation.
Of course many people are awarded medals for their long service, particularly in emergency and service organisations. Many others are acknowledged for the breadth of their community involvement, especially in small rural towns, some with a lifetime of engagement. Professional people are recognised for going beyond their clinical or business responsibities in serving their communities.
More than the facts of the awards are what the heroes have to say about their involvement:
Because volunteering is what ‘community’ is all about – sharing our talents.
Belief in goodness of people, and possibility of organising our economy and society around values that drive our communities: generosity, collaboration, trust and compassion.
I was inspired by a documentary on child poverty.
Because no one should walk the road to recovery [from sexual abuse] alone.
I want animals in our care to have an opportunity for a bright new future, and to educate people about animal welfare.
And what they gain from their work:
Seeing people gain confidence in talents they did not realise they had
You really can’t beat the feeling of knowing that you helped someone else today.
I really enjoy being part of a supportive club that encourages you to challenge yourself.
Seeing strong, long-lasting friendships develop; watching parents learn and grow in confidence.
Putting a smile on people’s faces and happiness into the lives of others.
Among the stories of hero achievements there are two I think worth remembering.
“Uncle Bill’ has supported and cared for his community and its people for most of his nearly 80 years. He has encouraged and helped young people to further their education and get their lives back on track. His passion for dealing with the harm of gambling led him to be part of the first kaumatua-led problem gambling organisation in Tairawhiti, Te Ara Tika. He continues to mentor young people struggling with their life journey. This citation tells only part of a lifetime of helping so many quietly and without fuss, changing many lives along the way. Read Uncle Bill’s story for a slice of East Coast history and how things happen in small towns and rural communities.
The second story is about a private property which included a long beach in a pristine part of New Zealand. When it was put up for sale two men were inspired to start a fundraising drive to buy the property, so it could be retained for public enjoyment. It became a project of national significance, creating a community spirit across New Zealand. The project captured the public imagination and reminded every Kiwi that no matter how small a donation, they can make a difference to the country’s future. The total of $2 million (with a chip-in from Government) secured the beach for the benefit of future generations. Social investment does not come much better than that.
The Kiwibank Local Hero Awards offer a positive measure on the health of our communities and the potential to keep on making them a better place. I shall be looking out for more volunteer and community sector successes as 2017 unfolds.