Volunteer Voices - "Even a tiny smile from a baby brings sunshine to my day.” - Sarah

Being a drop in volunteer for Upper Clutha Plunket suits Sarah Eagle down to the ground. “I don’t have any formal role. I just lend a hand where and when I can. Plunket is a very welcoming and relaxed place and any help is gratefully accepted.”

Whānau Āwhina Plunket is New Zealand’s largest support service for the health and well-being of tamariki under five and their whānau. The Upper Clutha branch is dedicated to helping all families in this area through nursing visits, advice, parent groups, playgroups and community activities.

It is a service unlike any other in the world and that’s what Sarah loves about it. “I had my first child in the U.K. and there was nothing like Plunket. When I had my second child here, I was blown away at the support that was available to me through Plunket. New Zealanders tend to take it for granted but it’s truly unique.”

Sarah worked as the Community Services Coordinator for Plunket for two years and although she is now in a different work role, she continues to hold Plunket close to her heart and is an active participant in organising and running Plunket’s community events.

“We provide a calm space at big events like the Wanaka A and P Show and Warbirds and Wheels where parents can bring their littlies, change nappies, breastfeed, have a cuppa and a chat.”

She down plays her volunteering but it is clear that she is deeply committed to helping the local community. “Wānaka is perceived as affluent but parenting is the ultimate leveller. Money doesn’t make it any easier and there is no manual. Plunket is so good at bringing all sorts of people together and creating a common ground.”

Born in Canterbury, she went to school in Christchurch and chose a career in banking and finance. Sarah says “Looking back on it now I realise I really should have had a career in something medical or child based. Kids are just the best. Even a tiny smile from a baby brings sunshine to my day.”

She has travelled the world and lived in London for ten years but home then beckoned and Wānaka was the natural place to come to. “My family always had holiday houses here and we love the outdoors. We love camping, skiing and adventures. I’m learning to sail and my daughters and I love to dance, hip hop and jazz.”

She also loves the Wānaka community. “After travelling and being away for so long this is the first time I have felt truly grounded.” Wanaka is her happy place.

Sarah says her volunteering is spasmodic and flexible and depends on what else is going on in her life but it is always fulfilling. “Whether it’s in the rooms or out in the community, Plunket is a warm and safe place. For me just seeing happy parents and kids thriving is so satisfying.”

Thinking of volunteering? Sarah says “It’s nice to help someone and I can guarantee you will get so much back.”

Story written by Juliette Hicks for Volunteer South, 2024