Volunteers sign up for the army
The hard work is much more satisfying since a group of Christchurch IDEA Services volunteers joined the Student Volunteer Army.
People we support in Christchurch have been volunteering in the community in all kinds of ways and for a long time. But recently they have been energised by signing up with the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) Service Award. Their volunteer hours are now logged each week on the SVA app and count towards badges that recognise their contribution.
Using the app, volunteers can log any type of volunteering online and are sent their first SVA Service Badge after they have recorded five hours of volunteering. There are five award levels – member, bronze, silver, gold and the Top Volunteer Award.
Christchurch woman Joy Lennox has volunteered on city conservation projects for more than 20 years. On Mondays and Wednesdays, she leaves home in Papanui at 6am to volunteer at the Bottle Lake Forest Park in Burwood. She catches two buses, with a stop for breakfast in between at Muffin Break, and then walks for the last 20 minutes from the Burwood Hospital bus stop. “No, it’s not long. It’s good for my legs,” she says.
Her husband Brian Lennox often comes with her – he always has a bagel for breakfast; Joy has a sausage roll. But Brian also has a paid job at PAK’nSAVE, so he can’t log as many volunteer hours as Joy.
For 16 years, Support Worker Tess Abbott has managed the small team of between seven and eight volunteers at Bottle Lake, working alongside park rangers from Christchurch City Council. Four volunteers, including Joy and Brian, receive supported living services from IDEA Services and two men come with a support worker from an IDEA Services residence. Others join from other service providers.
They gather in a small hut next to the park rangers’ headquarters and Tess is briefed by the rangers on what work needs doing.
IHC and IDEA Services have been working with park rangers at Bottle Lake for more than 30 years on projects including planting native species, mulching, weeding and chopping down lupins. “There is a lot of loading up the trailer and taking it away,” Tess says.
“It’s good physical work. The guys really enjoy it. Nobody is forced to come here and do it. They do it because they want to.
“If I put down two hours’ work and log it, then it’s two hours real, physical work and I don’t include the travel,” she says. “At the end, you stand back and be proud of what you have done.”
Another team of around eight conservation volunteers works nearby with IDEA Services Support Worker Cherie Prangnell and the park rangers at Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park. Cherie has been working for IDEA Services since 2004.
Volunteers grow vegetables on both sites and can take home the produce. At Travis, they have planted a whole field of flax, pa harakeke, specifically for weavers. “Being a Māori woman, I am really proud of looking after the land and looking after the people,” Cherie says.
The collaboration with SVA started in February 2022 and by the end of December 3768 volunteer hours had been logged by 51 volunteers. Service Manager Phillippa Johnson-Alatalo got the scheme up and running for IDEA Services in Christchurch.
Phillippa says while the app is easy to use, you need a device and an email address to log your hours, which is a barrier to some people we support.
She worked with SVA to adapt the app so that hours could be logged by an administrator. Dianne Pelvin volunteers by going into the IDEA Services office in Christchurch each month to log the hours for other volunteers. Dianne is part of a small committee of people we support who meet once a month to come up with ideas for volunteering projects. Committee members also phone the various facilities to remind them to send in their hours for logging.
IDEA Services Area Manager Michelle Hickey says being part of the SVA Service Award programme has been “mana-enhancing” for the volunteers. She says SVA has been very supportive, holding weekly meetings for several months with IDEA Services at the start.
Michelle says individual volunteers, some with complex needs, are getting involved. Some have adopted a park to look after, remove graffiti, or deliver meals to those who are isolating. Volunteers can also choose to get involved in other great things that are happening in the community – cleaning war graves ahead of Anzac Day commemorations and helping to plant 1000 native plants to mark Travis Wetland Trust’s 30th anniversary.
Others are clocking up the hours without ever leaving home. Two women, house mates Lisa Turner and Sarah Rodden, were the first to be awarded gold badges after logging 500 hours of knitting blankets for the SPCA. And they haven’t stopped yet.
“What I love about this is that anyone with any kind of disability can be part of this,” Michelle says. And volunteers are sticking with it. “People are just as excited and just as engaged as they were at Day One,” she says.
“People feel proud. Having the Student Volunteer Army participating with us makes them feel proud as well.”
The IDEA Services Senior Management Team is now planning to extend SVA Service Award participation to IDEA Services volunteers in other parts of the country.
Caption 1: Joy and Brian Lennox chop down lupins at Bottle Lake.
Caption 2: Working at the Bottle Lake Forest Park (from left), Joy Lennox, Brian Lennox, Tess Abbott, Cameron Hepburn and Kieran Krammer. Photographs by David Bayley of Bayley Photography. David is also an IDEA Services Support Worker.