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 Elizabeth Meaclem…
Elizabeth talks to us about her experiences at Mana Recovery Trust and how impressed she has been with the enthusiasm and work ethics of the volunteers who help the trust. Volunteer support enables the trust to provide primary care services to people with mental health needs and make a positive difference to their lives.
What is your background?
I’m Chief Executive of the Mana Recovery Trust (a charitable trust) – and a registered nurse. I came to New Zealand in 2008 after working in Australia for many years. My first role in New Zealand was National Operations Manager of Healthline and Mental Health Line.
The Mana Recovery Trust (MRT) provides living skills and vocational training and rehabilitation for people with serious mental health illness. We provide meaningful community services through business initiatives that increase employment opportunities for our trainees and also benefit the environment with our focus on resource recovery and recycling. We encourage people to Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recover & Recycle. We currently have 80 trainees enrolled in our programme and 53 staff.
I was honoured to be named as a finalist in the Wellingtonian of the Year in 2012 in the Environment category for my work in sustainability. I am a Board Trustee of Community Recycling Network Aotearoa – working towards a greener New Zealand on a national level.
What role do volunteers play at Mana Recovery Trust?
Support from volunteers enables us to provide primary care services to people with mental health needs, and together we are making a positive difference to their lives. We offer all sorts of volunteer opportunities and would love to hear from anyone interested!
Our Oranga Business Recycling team, for example, is always looking for volunteers to help us in our business recycling operation. These roles are ideal for people wanting to learn about recycling or to gain experience working with people with mental health needs. Volunteers are taught the skills of sorting plastic, paper and cardboard products and can also work side-by-side supporting and mentoring people with disabilities.
Volunteers also help with other activities. A team from BNZ Wellington gave up their Saturday to help with one of our art workshops, and a team from Credit Union Baywide sponsored and cooked our sausage sizzle when we re-launched our Trash Palace shop in September 2013.
Trash Palace sells a wide range of recycled goods at bargain prices. For no charge the public drop unwanted goods that were destined for the landfill but could still be reused. We offer furniture, whiteware, electrical items, steel car parts, kitchenware, gardening tools, toys and bikes. Some volunteers help in our Trash Palace shop or sort goods and furniture.
With the partnering and support of our local council, businesses, the community and volunteers, together we are paving the way to a truly sustainable future.
What would you say to encourage more businesses and more community groups to be involved in employee volunteering projects?
Volunteers are key to our success – they complement the partnerships and support we receive from our local council, businesses and the community.
Mana Recovery has held a number of corporate volunteer projects and I have been extremely impressed with the enthusiasm and work ethics of our business volunteers with everyone doing a hard day’s work. Our projects always involve lots of manual labour and all our volunteers do this in a fun way without complaint – rain or shine – and it’s a good team building exercise for both business and community. We have achieved so much during these projects we would otherwise not have the resources to do.
Why do you see these awards as important?
I believe it is important to recognize the contribution that volunteers make to the not for profit sector. Mana Recovery relies on volunteers to make a difference to the lives of the people we support and to help improve the environment. People that go out of their way to volunteer, without financial, personal or selfish gain need to be celebrated, acknowledged and rewarded. These awards will achieve this and allow our sector to show appreciation and showcase the results achieved, whether as an individual or as a company.
Over the past four years MRT has won numerous local and national awards: Wellington Airport Community Awards – Supreme Winner; Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Awards – Community Category; and Westpac Business Awards. I believe winning these awards has helped Mana Recovery obtain funding and grants to enable us to continue our work.
What sorts of projects are you hoping to hear about from award entrants?
I’m open to all kinds of projects, whether they are environmental, health, social, sport or other. I will look at the impact the project has made to the local community and benefits it brings to all involved. There are many worthwhile organisations so I’m really excited to have the opportunity to read the success stories.