Volunteer Voices - "I am learning and the rewards are so worth it." - Anna

Anna Dunphey (right) with Emma Pierce enjoying some MINT time.

Anna Dunphey radiates enthusiasm about her role as a volunteer activities supporter with Wanaka’s MINT Charitable Trust. “I haven’t been volunteering there for very long but right from the get go I have felt welcomed and supported. Inclusion is part of MINT’s overarching philosophy and this extends to their volunteers as well.”

Established by a group of like minded parents MINT seeks to empower intellectually disabled individuals to live vibrant, valued and meaningful lives. Their wide range of programmes give participants the opportunity to experience the joy of sport and recreation and the pride of being valued and involved in their community.

As an activities supporter Anna is part of an enthusiastic and caring team. She says “It’s been a new experience to meet people with intellectual disabilities and requires a different way of communicating but MINT has been amazing at directing me so that I feel useful and in just a couple of hours a week I’ve been learning so much.”

Growing up in a rural area of Vermont in the USA where the importance of community is understood Anna embraced that mindset. She volunteered through high school at the local soup kitchen and at university as a mountain biking mentor for young teenage girls. “That was really cool” she says “The girls were given the opportunity to try new things, to exercise and to view their bodies with positivity.”

After travelling and working a range of jobs in the US Anna wanted to do the true overseas working holiday. The two-year working visa programme between the US and New Zealand enabled this and she admits “I arrived with no real plans as such but everything fell into place.” Sponsorship through a job at Wastebusters has solidified her ability to stay and she feels she has built a life and a community in Wanaka.

“I love the access to the outdoors here and I also think there is a rich creative vein running through Wanaka. There are so many people doing creative things here - making things, making art.”

Her happy place? “There are too many to list. Crafting, yoga, swimming, hikes, tennis, cross country skiing. We live a really rich life in Wanaka and people are so friendly. There is always someone down for a potluck or a hang by the lake.”

The MINT role has seen Anna step out of her comfort zone. “I’m involved with people I wouldn't usually interact with but that means I am learning and the rewards are so worth it. I’m lucky the MINT crew are so kind and nurturing so it hasn’t been difficult.”

Will she continue with MINT? “Definitely. I’d like to expand my role into other programmes and events.”

For more information about Mint and volunteering there, contact Lizette Hart at lizette.hart@minttrust.nz. You can visit the Mint website at https://www.minttrust.nz/

Written by Juliette Hicks, 2024