Volunteer Voice - "Just put your hand up and say 'I'm in'"- Celia

Celia sitting outside with a white fluffy dog on her lap.

I’d reckon that the majority of you reading this cringe at the thought of cleaning your pantry and wardrobes. Imagine thinking that doing it for someone else is fun!

That’s just part of what makes Celia Waser such a perfect fit for helping those who have cancer and are also dealing with clutter. “I’ve got something in my genes that makes me love helping people sort and tidy up their homes.”

Celia has lived in Wanaka since 2004, after having spent many years in Auckland along with stints of living in England, Sweden, Melbourne and Darwin. Much of this travel, including the move to Wanaka, was driven by opportunities over the course of her career in hospitality during which she and her Swedish husband managed lodges and hotels. Now semi-retired, they count themselves fortunate to have both their adult daughters and partners also living in Wanaka.

Celia’s parents were very giving people, and she has been involved with volunteering since her teenage years with Rotaract. This led into raising funds for Rotary through raffle sales, duck races and barbeques. Along with a girlfriend, Celia started Food Angels, collecting from stores, and delivering food parcels to people in need, sick or in hospital. To carry on the family tradition, she involved her girls in these efforts, as a way “for them to appreciate how other people struggle.” Tying the circle, when her mother moved to Elmslie House, Celia volunteered to go out with the van for lunch and activities.

But how does all this lead to Celia poking her head around in other people’s closets?
While walking in the Relay for Life in 2019, a Cancer Society team member approached Celia and her friend to ask if they would be interested in more directly helping those facing cancer. “She made it sound so easy and fun. And indeed, the whole process was easy.”

Celia is paired up with one or two people to do whatever is needed. She may take her client to a support coffee group, make them lunch, enjoy a walk together, or simply share a cuppa while their partner has a break. Her favourite is when they want help sorting their wardrobes or pantries, which lets her exercise her organisational superpowers.

Celia sometimes struggles with the temporary nature of volunteering with cancer clients. Despite that, Celia shares: “I love taking them under my wing and thank my lucky stars that I can help. It’s been a very rewarding experience thus far.”

“Just put your hand up and say I’m in. You can give as many hours as you want to give; there’s no pressure on you to do more than you wish at different stages of your life,” says Celia when I ask her advice for others considering volunteering. “When you do something for someone else, it causes you to appreciate what you have all the more.”

Written by Susan Merriman, 2022

If you'd like to learn more about Cancer Society, head over to their website: https://www.cancer.org.nz/