RYAN FLETCHER has a calm, soothing voice. ‘I will be your interviewer this afternoon,’ he says to the older woman waiting in VOLUNTEER WELLINGTON’s lobby. Although the 18-year old is rather softly-spoken— he has to repeat himself before the woman acknowledges him – he has a quiet confidence. This is impressive when you find that Ryan until recently self-identified as antisocial.
‘I dropped out of high school,’ he says.’ I lacked a sense of direction and found it hard to deal with people.’ He found his peers especially difficult and calls them ‘judgmental teenagers’. After nearly two years of retreat and of ‘just sitting around at home doing nothing’, he decided to look for ways to make himself more hireable. ‘I was terrified of jobs’, he admits.
In January he enrolled at McGirr Training to catch up on his studies and asked his Work and Income case manager about volunteering opportunities. ‘He handed me a VOLUNTEER WELLINGTON leaflet, so I checked it out!’
Five months down the road, Ryan says the volunteering experience is much more rewarding than he had ever expected. He came here to improve his CV and ended up restoring his self-confidence and building his communication skills. He has overcome his anxieties and pessimism: ‘Meeting volunteers raised my opinion of people in society. They showed me that there are good people out there.’
Even his colleagues have noticed the change as he is not hiding behind his long hair anymore: one day he came in with a fresh fringe. ‘So nice to see your lovely face’, said Faith, a fellow interview. ‘The course and VOLUNTEER WELLINGTON helped me get back on track’, he now states. Interviewing and placing volunteers have also bolstered his desire to study psychology and aim for a career in counselling.
Today, he is working towards his NCEA certificate and will be done by July, right in time to start the new semester at University. ‘I feel the break I took was necessary for where I was at the time,’ he says. ‘Now, when I see my friends at Victoria University, I wish I hadn’t taken it, but I’m on my way to joining them soon.’ And he’s adamant that he’ll keep some time in his busy student schedule for a steady amount of volunteering.
Story and Photograph by Cécile Lepage