Volunteer Voices - Zoe Huggett, Aspiring Gymsports, Coeliac New Zealand

Volunteer Voices - Zoe Huggett, Aspiring Gymsports, Coeliac New Zealand

It’s a word that can strike fear into the heart of even the most community minded amongst us. “Committee.” Zoe Huggett hasn't run from the word. She’s embraced it.

As volunteer Treasurer for Aspiring Gymsports, Zoe has found her experiences with this Committee to be overwhelmingly positive. “When I joined I didn't know that Aspiring Gymsports is a non profit organisation overseen by a committee. It’s a bunch of incredibly talented, passionate and competent people.”

Meeting inspiring people is a key reason why Zoe volunteers for both Aspiring Gymsports and also for Coeliac NZ.

Hailing from the UK Zoe switched from one career path to something completely different. “I did a degree in geography but was attracted to the sheer usefulness of accountancy.” Zoe worked for a large firm in London for 3 years, qualifying as a chartered accountant.

All was not lost with the geography qualification when she began to travel. “It was really useful when I was a tour guide shepherding a group of starry eyed 18-35 year olds all around South America.” smiles Zoe. She met her husband on one of these trips too.

It's a familiar story. Coming to Wanaka for one ski season, she and her husband never left. Zoe now works three days a week for a local accounting firm, helps her husband in his building business and enjoys the Wanaka lifestyle with their two children.

It was the kids who prompted Zoe to volunteer. “They both did Mini Muscles with Aspiring Gymsports and really enjoyed it. There was a call for committee members and my experience fitted the bill for Secretary and then Treasurer.” She enjoys being able to use her accounting skills to contribute to a community organisation.

Zoe has another passion. Five years ago her daughter was diagnosed with Coeliac disease.”This is not a fad diet. It’s a medical condition. Even a crumb of bread can be a serious problem for a child with Coeliac disease.” Zoe got help from Coeliac New Zealand and quickly realised the need for support at a local level particularly with the social challenges for Coeliac children.

Setting up and running the local Coeliac Kids Club, Zoe holds fun events for the kids and supports other parents who are facing this overwhelming diagnosis. “It’s cool to see these kids together. They realise there are other kids like them and they are all eating the same thing so it just becomes normal.” She has seen huge increases in confidence and happiness in the group. Zoe also helps parents negotiate the confusing world of food choices and information about the condition.

The two volunteering roles have been busy. Zoe says she will step aside from her Treasurer position this year. She has loved her time on the Committee but now feels that she needs to give her full attention to the Coeliac Kids Club. “This is a lifelong diagnosis and I feel that the Kids Club can make a difference to how people come to handle it for their whole lives.”

The new Aspiring Gymsports Treasurer will be coming in at an exciting time. The whole team has been campaigning for a fit for purpose premises for a long time and the organisation is poised for their next move.

Zoe’s final words “Volunteer. It's so rewarding and you really are making a difference.”

Could you be the next Treasurer or Fundraising Coordinator for Aspiring Gymsports or maybe join Zoe in helping people with Coeliac disease? Contact Volunteer South to find out more about this and other volunteering opportunities.

Aspiring Gymsports is based in Wanaka and is made up of a team of professionally accomplished coaches, administration staff and volunteers. Their aim is to provide affordable and fun fitness programmes from tots to adults.

Coeliac New Zealand promotes the welfare of children and adults who have been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. Fully inclusive it aims to raise awareness and to provide support and information to people with coeliac disease, their whanau and the wider community.

At Volunteer South - Central Lakes, we can discuss your skills and goals for volunteering and help make the perfect match. See more roles online at www.volunteersouth.org.nz

Written by Juliette Hicks for Volunteer South, Aspiring Gymsports and Coeliac NZ in 2021. A new treasurer has since been found for Aspiring Gymsports.