In the lead-up to the 2014 Volunteer Wellington Employee Volunteering Awards, we will share profiles of some of the six judges who are reviewing award nominations.
Introducing Peter Gilberd…
How did you get involved with volunteering?
When I moved into a new home next to a park overrun with blackberries and gorse, it didn’t take me long to take out my gardening tools and start weeding. I had both aesthetic and ecological goals in mind. I knew that I could make the park a much nicer place for our community.
Two years later, I cofounded the Woodridge Planters volunteer group. We began by planting native trees in the Woodridge (Newlands) area. Our aims have since broadened beyond environmental objectives to encompass social and community based goals as well.
I’m a member of a working group that works with Wellington City Council, schools and community groups to protect and restore Seton Nossiter Park in Paparangi. I also volunteer at Ngā Hau e Whā o Paparārangi marae, open to everyone in the northern suburbs and beyond. The marae has developed a 20 year planting programme with a focus on sustainable harvesting. The marae grows plants for weaving (e.g. flax and pingao), traditional cooking (e.g. kawakawa and karamu) and rongoa – Māori medicine. I’m also the regional manager for Trees for Survival, which works with schools.
I’ve got a deep-seated commitment to volunteering. My desire to see strong environmental outcomes means that I will continue planting native trees – I’m excited about doing my bit to bring back the birds to the Wellington environment.
Please tell us about some of the ways that volunteers contribute to our local communities
With support from Volunteer Wellington, I liaise with organisations including youth groups (such as Scouts) and corporate groups. Volunteers work alongside community service workers, church groups, and older people living in hospital level rest homes. They propagate and maintain plants, and plant native trees. I’m a strong advocate for environmental diversity. Planting not only makes an area more attractive – it also provides resources so that birds and other native life can thrive and improves the quality of nearby waterways.
What do you think volunteers gain from becoming involved?
Planting is an activity that everybody buys into – it’s something we can all do together. Young people and older people enjoy working collectively and contributing to their community. People offer their skills, learn something new, keep active and have fun. I see volunteering within a social, cultural and environmental framework – it’s a collective rather than an individual activity that I’m pleased to be a part of. Feedback from corporate volunteers shows their interest and enthusiasm – and their enjoyment of a day out of the office.
What are the benefits for community groups?
Community groups appreciate volunteer labour because communities often don’t have time to carry out work themselves. There are plenty of projects for capable volunteers. They all find a niche! Teams have helped to install infrastructure, build a shade house and a community nursery. Others have painted, planted and shifted mulch.
Volunteering breaks down the barriers between the corporate world and the “greenies”. It gives the corporate sector opportunities to show that they are not solely focused on their core business but also on their community. Corporate volunteers take ownership of their projects – they get on with it and it always goes well. Corporate sector volunteers are active in many Wellington communities and they provide terrific support. Many people put aside a full day and make a big contribution – they provide real value and demonstrate their commitment to the environment.
Why do you see these awards as important?
Three reasons spring to mind immediately, all of which strengthen the work of volunteers. First, it is important to recognise the efforts of others, in all aspects of life, and it is no different in volunteering. Holding an awards event does this for all participants, especially those who are selected for awards. Second, an award is an endorsement that can help an organisation to strengthen its volunteering, perhaps by helping it to attract funding or perhaps by cementing in the culture that allows it to flourish. Finally, the awards event is an opportunity to meet others and form potentially beneficial contacts.
What sort of projects are you hoping to hear about from award entrants?
The diversity of activity carried out by volunteers is amazing, and it will be inspiring to hear about all of them. I am sure that I will learn about areas of volunteering that are completely new to me.