Central Otago Friendship Network Volunteers ‘Go the Extra Mile’

A group of people sitting at two tables, having coffee in a cafe, engaged in conversation.

‘Weaving the people together’ has always been an integral part of the Central Otago Friendship Network values; our vision of enriching people’s lives through friendship. We currently have 30 volunteers who share their skills, experience, time and friendship in various ways to enrich the lives of over 80 COFN members aged from 5 years to 90+! This includes a special focus on supporting those who experience disability and the older members of our community.

Our volunteers take on a variety of roles including governance on the COFN board, driving members to social groups or being a friendly face at events for those who need a special buddy. Some people donate their craft skills, passionately share interests such as table tennis with our Wednesday Friendship Group or give their time and individual friendship as 1:1 activity buddies.

We believe our volunteers are special because of their willingness to go above and beyond their volunteer role to be there for our members. They go the extra mile to make sure that people feel more connected in our community. One example is Raelene, a Cuppa Club driver, who provides extra support by baking for people in the community who are struggling with a hard time, such as the loss of a family member or ill health. Another volunteer, Margaret, shows care and concern through checking in with some members if she hasn’t seen them in a while just to make sure that they are okay.

Yet another volunteer, John, helps people feel included at Wednesday Friendship group by noticing those who don’t have a partner in games or even just chatting to someone sitting alone. We also have 1:1 buddies, like Sandy who meets weekly for a cuppa and chat with a much older lady experiencing memory loss. They prove the point that age doesn’t have to be a barrier, and illustrate that ‘weaving people together’ can include different generations. This is only a small sample of the amazing ways all our volunteers make a difference in the lives of our community members.

Importantly, our volunteers not only enrich the lives of others but also gain joy, fulfilment and a sense of connection from their involvement in the Central Otago Friendship Network community. As our volunteer, Hayley explains “I was approached by Wendy to see if I would like to be a COFN board member. I said yes, initially because I had no job at the time and it gave the opportunity to be out more in the community. Not only did it provide me with more company, it helped me enrich my skills of being friends with people, and the members of the Wednesday group have all been very welcoming, accommodating, and very lovely.” We always say it’s hard to know whether volunteers or members benefit the most as everyone involved in our network get’s to experience the warmth of connection or helping others connect!

Written by Eve O'Brien (Coordinator) and Hayley Rubie, COFN Board member who helps organise Wednesday Friendship Group quiz events and contributes to initiatives such as Volunteer Week celebrations.

Keen to join their team? Read more about the roles here.