Working as a volunteer all in the family

19:49, Dec 05 2012
Michele Ballantyne
REWARDING WORK: Orphans Aid opshop volunteer Michele Ballantyne sorts clothes for sale in store on International Volunteer Day yesterday.

Volunteering runs in the family for Orphans Aid opshop worker Michele Ballantyne.

Mrs Ballantyne, one of 1.5 million New Zealand volunteers celebrating International Volunteer Day yesterday, works at the same charity store as her mum did, and credits her with finding a way into the role.

"She was going on holiday and they didn't have a lot of staff and, because I'd done shop work before, I came to fill in for her for a couple of weeks."

That trial run inspired her to sign up at the Invercargill store permanently, and, four years later, she is still busy on the tills, "fluffing around to make the things look really nice".

Furthering the family link, her aunt has also been involved in volunteer work.

International Volunteer Day was established in 1985 by the United Nations as a way to publicise the value of volunteers, and is now recognised in 125 countries worldwide.


Despite not getting paid for the hours she spends at the shop, Mrs Ballantyne said the work was rewarding.

"I said to my husband it's the job I've enjoyed most. It's just a really positive environment. It is nice we can help all people."

Orphans around the world were not the only ones to benefit from the Invercargill volunteers, with city residents also getting support, she said.

"Some people that come in just want to have a chat. They might be a bit lonely.

"It's actually not just a shop - it's a place to meet."

Store manager Kathryn Casey believed it was important to emphasise the efforts of volunteers, like those who helped out in the opshop. "I don't think these girls realise that if they didn't work here we wouldn't exist."

Volunteer South manager Delia Riley said International Volunteer Day gave the public the chance to collectively thank volunteers for their work. "Often we say thank you throughout the year, but it's nice to have some certain day to celebrate."

Southlanders were generous with their time and skills but new volunteers would be appreciated, she said. "[Although] we've got good volunteer rates, we can always do with more."

The Southland Times