Three Volunteers, Three Journeys, Three Words of Advice: Just Do It!

Three Volunteers, Three Journeys, Three Words of Advice: Just Do It!

Enliven and Family Works volunteers are vital to the work we do at Presbyterian Support—last year 297 volunteers donated 32,409 hours! When surveyed, 85% of these volunteers believed they make a positive difference in their community, and that volunteering improves their own lives too.



Shane Torrance doesn’t fit the stereotype of a volunteer at an older person’s day programme. And with his shaved head, tattoos, and heavy-metal t-shirts, for a while he struggled to break into   volunteering at all. But Shane’s appearance belies a big soft heart, and now the older ladies who once wouldn’t let him hold their handbags while they climbed into the Enliven van, call him their friend.

About four years ago Shane started volunteering one day a week at Nelson’s Totara club. “I was just looking for something to do,” he said. A painter and decorator by trade, Shane had lost his legs and some eyesight as a result of Type 1 Diabetes. He could no longer work, and was “going crazy” at home.

Now Shane volunteers on four van runs and two Totara programmes per week, and is paid to work in the kitchen three times per week. At Totara Club he helps with morning tea, chats with members, and helps with activities, such as calling for Housie.

Because Shane knows what it feels like to almost lose his independence, he enjoys helping others who may be struggling with theirs. “Shane is a great example to our Totara members dealing with memory or physical challenges of their own,” said Trish Armstrong, Day Programme Coordinator. “Shane still lives alone independently, and he doesn’t let his disabilities slow him down.”

Through volunteering Shane has developed an extensive network and made many, many friends. And for anyone considering volunteering, he has this advice: “Just do it. You’ll get far more out of it than you put in—even if the people you’re helping need it more than you.”



Alasdair Freeborn’s experience is similar to Shane’s in that he started to volunteer with Enliven after health issues ended his dairy farming career. Ongoing autoimmune disease now makes paid work impossible.

Fortunately for Alasdair, he lives in Ashburton, where both he and Presbyterian Support are members of Mid Canterbury TimeBank. TimeBank is a community circle of giving in which members—local organisations and individuals—share skills with each other. Members earn time credits for the work they do, and then use those credits to “buy” another member’s time to get the services they need. Everyone’s time is equal, regardless of the type of work, so one hour always equals one time credit.

Alasdair volunteers for Presbyterian Support (Enliven) as a van driver, earning time credits whenever he does so. He then redeems his credits for weekly housecleaning, plus gardening tasks, meals, and baking.

It took Alasdair a long time to adjust to not working anymore. Initially he was devastated. However, volunteering gave him a new purpose. Alasdair now makes deposits in TimeBank as often as he can, so that if his health issues worsen he can access more support in the future.

Through volunteering, Alasdair says he’s “met the most fantastic people”. And funnily enough, his advice is the same as Shane’s: “Just do it. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

TimeBank circles are located all around the upper South Island—Addington, Lyttelton, Motueka, Hurunui, Ashburton, New Brighton, Selwyn, Sumner, Waimakariri, and  Ōtākaro. Learn more at


Marilyn McLellan is no stranger to volunteering—she’s spent years donating time and energy to children, young people, and now older people. These days she hosts an Enliven HomeShare group in north Christchurch.

When asked what she gets out of volunteering, Marilyn’s voice gets dreamy and thoughtful. “There’s just something that you can’t put a name to,” she says. “You hear the joy and laughter of people who might be living on their own and wouldn’t experience that joy if it weren’t for your help. There’s this immense satisfaction from knowing you’ve made somebody’s day better.

Marilyn has learnt important life lessons through her years as a volunteer. “Patience is a big one,” she says. “I’ll teach one of our members with Alzheimer’s the same board game week after week, and each time he says ‘I’ve never played this before’. You do that for six weeks and you just get over yourself.”

She’s also learnt to “serve others in the way they need to be served, not in the way I want to serve them”. Marilyn ensures she works with members’ wants, needs, and idiosyncrasies; whether that’s not eating vegetables at the meal, only using a particular toilet, or listening to the same stories over and over again because it’s important to them.

Volunteering has made me more aware of people in situations I hadn’t thought of before, particularly the elderly. It’s easy to think that because an older person has their own home and their own family that they’re OK. But they may not be.” Marilyn says she’s more likely to say hello to elderly people in the supermarket, or offer to help them now than she was before.

Marilyn’s advice for others considering volunteering is in the same vein as Shane’s and Alasdair’s: “Go for it,” she says. “Give it a go. What you get out of it is much more than you expect.

We are always looking for volunteers to help at our Enliven day programmes for older people. Join our friendly, supported volunteer team to make a positive difference.


To learn more or to apply, visit


He aroha whakatō, he aroha puta mai

If kindness is sown, then kindness you shall receive.