As National Volunteer Week draws to a close, we talk to Vivien Maidaborn, Executive Director of UNICEF NZ, about the crucial role NZ volunteers play in delivering the assistance so urgently required by children around the world, including New Zealand. Vivien has spent most of her career working in community organisations, motivated by a deep desire for equality and social change.
In what roles do volunteers assist UNICEF NZ?
Volunteers have a wide range of roles. We have interns working with our team on child rights advocacy and communications. They’re typically students or new migrants who, as part of arriving in NZ, want to get workplace experience. We have volunteers in communities around the country fundraising for us – they might be schools, community groups or neighbourhoods – in every case they understand the work we do nationally and internationally and want to support that work for children. Often we have school students who start out researching a project on our website then encourage their whole school to fundraise for a project they get committed to.
How important is volunteer assistance to the success of UNICEF NZ?
Volunteers are really important to our work, they mean we get more done and they are also often the connection between UNICEF and a community of interest we wouldn’t otherwise know about.
What do your volunteers take away by helping?
People love what they learn from UNICEF, as well as what they offer. People get NZ work experience; they apply university studies in a real policy environment; they learn about social campaigning and how to run effective campaigns. At the community level, volunteers learn about their own communities, how to fundraise with support from us, and of course everyone learns about child rights and the international development and humanitarian response.
What areas would you like to see more volunteer assistance in?
We love growing and expanding our connections within diverse NZ communities and engaging people in fundraising for children both here and internationally.
How do your volunteers find the time to help?
All of us have times when we can volunteer and times it’s really hard. The thing to remember when you’re making that assessment is that you gain friends, networks, learning, and a wonderful sense of contribution. Remember to add these things into your assessment if you have capacity right now, or not.
What recognition would you like to give to your volunteers as we celebrate National Volunteer Week?
UNICEF NZ celebrates all our volunteers in Volunteer Week, the people who make up our Board, our enthusiastic interns, and the community fundraisers who are so important in connecting us to their communities. Simply we couldn’t do what we do without you!
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries around the world, providing healthcare, nutrition, clean water, education, child protection and emergency relief, and is constantly working to change laws and policies to meet the needs of children worldwide. UNICEF NZ also works to combat child violence and child poverty in New Zealand.
For more information about UNICEF NZ and volunteering opportunities see www.unicef.org.nz