Matamata's Sandra Hunter rewarded with Queen's Service Medal
A Matamata woman, well known for giving to her community has been awarded a Queen's Service Medal.
Sandra Hunter, originally from Scotland, has been volunteering since she arrived in New Zealand with her husband Brian and three boys Richard, Stephen and Ross in 1972.
While the Queen's Service Medal is a lovely way of being recognised for services to her community, for Hunter, volunteering is not a job, but just being who she is.
"I grew up with a mum and grandmother who were very much into justice, equality and helping people wherever you got the opportunity.
"I had been brought up with a servant heart.
"It's just satisfaction in feeling like I am doing what I should be doing."
Hunter, who has been sitting on the news since April, says the letter was totally unexpected and left her speechless.
"I instantly felt like a fraud because Matamata's built on a history of volunteers and service.
"You just pick up and carry on."
Hunter's introduction to volunteering in New Zealand came a year after arriving in the country.
She and Brian had settled in the North Shore. Their twin boys were enrolled at kindy for six weeks before school started.
She was required to stay with them at each session.
By the end of the six weeks, a teacher, who was also a Guide Leader had drafted her into the organisation.
"I had three boys, and had nothing to do with Guides whatsoever, and suddenly I am a Guide leader in Torbay," she laughed.
"I learned from that - wow, everyone volunteers here."
When they made the move to Matamata in 1976, Hunter found the familiarity in a small community that she had felt as a young child in Scotland.
"I had never felt such a well defined sense of community as when I was a little girl growing up in a small village in Ayrshire, Scotland.
"Everybody rolls their sleeves up and pitches in. It was incidental learning."
It was while studying social sciences through Massey University, that she became interested in people and their dynamics.
"It made me want to get more involved with whatever I could do."
And so, just like the people in Ayrshire, she rolled her sleeves up and got involved.
In 1980, she was offered an opportunity to train as a relationships counsellor and then became a counsellor, tutor and supervisor with now-disestablished Relationships Aotearoa – originally, Marriage Guidance.
She also co-founded Tough Love in Matamata in the 1980s.
She became a Family Court Mediator, and it was going in to bat for children caught up in custody and access issues that really got her blood pumping.
"I worked with a lot of couples. It was so satisfying.
"Although you want everyone's needs to be met, I came out barefaced, battling for the kids."
When she left the raw, emotional side of relationships after 17 years, it was for the more joyful side as a marriage celebrant.
Sixteen years later, she still helps people tie the knot.
"I just love it, it's wonderful to be with a couple as they start their life journey together."
Instead of a fee, she asks her couples to donate to Rotary's End Polio Now campaign, which earned her a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow in 2013.
When Victim Support was established in New Zealand in 1990, the police approached Hunter to be involved as a foundation member.
"In counselling and victim support, although different, you are enabling and empowering people.
"Both have been such a pivotal part of my life."
She was chair of the Victim Support Waikato District exec for 14 years and has now passed the baton over and serves as a board member.
She also serves as a session clerk with Matamata's St Andrews Presbyterian Church, where she has ben an elder for over 25 years.
Although it was Hunter's early teaching that inspired her to give to others, she says her words to live by come from her good friend, and Rotarian Graham Guilford.
"If you don't get involved with your community, you are just a bunch of people living in the same place."
- Sandra worked for the Matamata Chronicle from 1985 to 2004, and served as the Editor from 1997. From 2004 to 2012 she was the editor for Urban and Country, another Fairfax newspaper. In this time she was relieving editor for a number of Fairfax newspapers including Piako Post, Cambridge Edition and Hauraki Herald.
Other Matamata recipients of the Queen Service Medal include: Jacqueline Grinder for services to the community and Charmaine Donaldson, for services to health and seniors. The Chronicle will profile each of the QSM recipients.