Volunteers ‘weaving the people together’

Volunteers ‘weaving the people together’

 Over 1.2m Kiwis volunteer time and skills to their community with the volunteer spirit thriving in Wanaka. Good reason for Community Networks to celebrate National Volunteer Week from 18-22 June. Drop into CNW on Brownston Street and you’ll be sure of a warm welcome from John, Kim, Marion, Meetu, Arda or Julie, all of whom volunteer on the reception desk. ‘This years theme weaving the people togetheris particularly meaningful as we rely enormously on the dedication and generosity of our precious volunteers to help provide our services to the community’, said Kate Murray CNW Manager.

 Marion Furneaux, who worked in the first pharmacy in Wanaka in 1973 and volunteered with St John Ambulance for over 30 years, has been a CNW volunteer for the last few years of her retirement:

 ‘The days are so varied. My job is not to answer all of the client’s questions but to try to suggest an option that they might try. I listen and try to help with a way forward. I like to help people.’

(photo Margaret Batty)

As Marion and I chat behind reception hardly a minute goes by without the phone ringing or someone popping through the door. This is a buzzy community hub: help is needed to fill in an Inland Revenue form; a mum asks for a top-up from the Food Bank (whilst her energetic toddler races around the reception); there are booking requests for Wheels to Dunstan transport and IT support provided for someone without internet at home. Overseas workers, tourists and many local families come through the door for support or information. ‘People can put on a good face on the outside, problems are usually hidden. They fall on hard times for different reasons, we are here to help’, said Marion.

When she started volunteering five years ago Meetu Saklani was surprised that people in Wanaka would need basics such as clothes or food:  ‘It takes a lot for someone to come through the door and ask for help, it’s not easy. But local people and businesses donate clothes and food, so we can give some practical help and signpost people elsewhere for other services. My advice to anyone struggling would be don’t be shy to ask for help at Community Networks. You might know the person behind the desk, but all volunteers are bound by confidentiality and are there to help not to judge.’

 Meetu’s phone pings constantly with messages when we meet. She is looking forward to celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Spice Room restaurant with her husband/business partner, in July. Juggling the management of two restaurants, staff, supplies and customers, plus her two young children is no mean feat, and yet Meetu still carves out time to volunteer: ‘I get great personal satisfaction and learn something from every shift at CNW. My grandmother always told me that giving is the most important thing. I love the concept of karma, if you do something nice to a stranger today, it will come back to you eventually!’

(photo Margaret Batty)



Food Bank volunteer to arrange stock, seek contributions from local shops and help organise the Christmas appeal.

Meals on wheels roster volunteer to coordinate driver shifts and deliveries.

Male adult role models for the Family Works Buddy Programme to spend time with young men sharing everyday activities together.

Winter garage to shelter the Wheels to Dunstan car.

Please call CNW for more information: 03 443 7799.


Article written by Margaret Betty. 

Could you help local families struggling with heating costs this winter?

Could you help local families struggling with heating costs this winter?

Community Networks seeks donations from those receiving the Winter Energy Payment that may not need these funds.

Our local community challenge

We live in an expensive, stunning and chilly place. The team at Community Networks works alongside many families that are struggling financially. Typically these families are working hard to make ends meet, are above the threshold to receive support from Work & Income, however do not have the financial capacity to help with additional expenses such as firewood.

Here is how you could help…

The Winter Energy Payment is a national initiative in which all superannuants are paid a subsidy to help with the costs of heating their homes from the 1st May until the 1st October. If you could spare all or part of your subsidy your donation will help us support those families that are struggling with the cost of firewood and heating. Last week alone we had three families with young children contact us as they are unable to afford the cost of firewood.

This scheme will be carefully managed

Donations can be made into an account (the Community Support Fund) that is held specifically for supporting families. These funds will then be used to purchase firewood or help with the cost of a power bill, based on a referral from a social worker or a financial mentor. We manage a rigorous framework around the Community Support Fund to ensure the funds are always allocated for genuine need and support. Kate Murray the Manager of Community Networks will administer these funds and gather a database of how these donations have been used to the support local families.

At the end of the winter all donors will receive a letter detailing how these donations have helped keep local families warm over our winter months and therefore contributed to the social wellbeing of our community.


Community Networks is a local grassroots organisation run by a charitable trust (the Alpine Community Development Trust) and has been operating for 15 years. We are unique to the Upper Clutha region and we are not a government organisation. We are funded largely by local trusts, fundraisers and donations. Our purpose is to be a one stop resource hub for social well-being services. Families that are struggling financially can get support via the Community Foodbank (this year we are giving out an average of 23 food parcels a month), a social worker, financial mentors, subsidised GP visits and subsidised counselling.

Take action

If you are interested in donating your Winter Energy Payment please email Kate Murray for the bank account details – kate@communitynetworks.co.nz. If you have any queries regarding this process please call the team at Community Networks on 443 7799.

We thank you very much for your support.

Article written by Margaret Betty.