Volunteers make all the difference at Life Education

From starry ceilings, and Christmas parades to truly transformative experiences, our volunteers collect incredible memories with Life Education. But they give even more. Volunteers donate more than 23,000 hours each year to support our work.

We’re grateful to our volunteer Trustees and here we highlight the stories of three. They’re part of a team of over 300 who support their local Trusts’ work with the young people in our communities. Whether it’s mentoring Educators or helping raise money, each of them is helping us to make a difference to the lives of tamariki and rangatahi.

The programme’s innovation was a revelation

For Nigel Frater, Principal of Plateau School in Upper Hutt, being a volunteer for Life Education is more than being a Trustee and mentor. It’s also about the helping with fundraising pub quizzes, and helping Harold at Christmas parades. Nigel is a Trustee for the Hutt Valley Trust and an Education Support Mentor for Educator Andrea Young.

Nigel first became involved as a teacher back in 1999 when he moved here from the United Kingdom. He says it was a revelation to experience the classroom on wheels, and the engagement and enthusiasm from the children.

Nigel Frater with Harold the Giraffe

“I took up the mantel of volunteering as I knew the importance of Life Education’s work in schools and really appreciated the need for a strong support crew to keep it running,” says Nigel.

He says the kids just love meeting Harold.

“Even our super cool teenagers can’t wait to see him pop out to say hi! It is a real point of difference and very motivating. I also think that the technology involved in delivering the programme complements it perfectly as well.

“One of my favourite moments is being part of our local Christmas Parade and seeing the children (and many adults too) excited to see Harold.

“I have been blown away by the history of the Trustees and their long involvement and selfless approach. Without the mahi of our amazing Trustees Life Education would not exist,” says Nigel.

And if you’re considering volunteering for Life Education Nigel’s words of advice: “Get amongst it! It is great fun and very rewarding.”

Dedication keeps growing after 26 years

Astrid Martin also says volunteering with Life Education has given her some incredible moments. Sometimes someone recognises her 26 years on and a smile spreads across their face, as they say: “I know you; you’re the Harold lady! I loved Life Ed, and it was one of the main reasons why I went to school.”

Astrid Martin (3rd from left) with the team of volunteer Trustees from Life Education Trust Western Bay of Plenty

Astrid has been with Life Education Trust Bay of Plenty for 26 years. She was a registered teacher and was asked help out as a relief Educator for the programme. She later moved into the role of Educator and has been with Western Bay of Plenty ever since.

Since the day Astrid was introduced to Life Ed, she has embraced it, and it has become a pivotal part of her life.

“I love the ethos and believe in it wholeheartedly. It’s really easy to see the benefits the programme offers,” she says.

“The desire to promote and fundraise for Life Ed in our schools will always have a special place in my heart, and Harold, quite simply, is the best remembered Mascot around,” she says.

Astrid is now the chairperson of the Western Bay of Plenty Trust, and the volunteer role is varied. She pretty much does anything and everything from helping organise fundraisers, to getting sponsorship and empowering her Trust to work collaboratively while supporting their Educator, and of course making sure the bank account is healthy!

“I personally believe that everyone should be a part of a community Trust, we are all happy to take in life, but to give back creates goodwill, a sense of self satisfaction and the knowledge that a person is doing their best to leave the world in a better state than when they entered it,” says Astrid.

Over the years she has seen many children pass through the programmes, and there is great satisfaction watching student’s involvement.

“Sometimes it is watching the body language of a young person who may be struggling with self-esteem, as a victim of bullying, or with a difficult family background. The transformation, even in a short period of time, when they learn a tool to help with one of these situations sees them sit up straighter, participate, and be at the front of the line for session two rather than lurking at the back,” says Astrid.

Sarah encourages others to “Do it!”

Sarah Churstain, Trustee, Wellington City first experienced Life Ed as a primary school student in rural Waikato. 

“I vividly remember the Life Ed trailer arriving at school, the uniqueness of classes being held in the trailer (with stars on the roof), and various classes involving learning about the human body and what helps and inhibits it functioning.

“Fast forward three decades and I became involved on a voluntary basis with Life Ed when one of the Trustees of the National Trust suggested I would be a good fit as a Trustee of the Wellington City Trust. 

Sarah Churstain

Sarah started volunteering a year and a half ago. She says, “Given my legal background, I provide the Trust with governance support and legal expertise. I am also principally responsible for liaising with Rachel, our Educator employed by the Trust. 

“Life Ed is a great charity, providing invaluable education and life skills to our tamariki. I am passionate about ensuring the unique education experience that Life Education offers is available in as many schools as possible and ensuring we help the next generation thrive. I have a bit of a vested interest having two young children myself.

“There have been so many great experiences despite being involved for a short time. My favourite so far has been how a child with autism was given a one on one experience with our Educator and Harold. The child’s teacher who accompanied the student for the experience mentioned that she had never heard the child speak as much as he did during that learning experience. 

“Students are really excited about Life Ed coming to school and the uniqueness of the ‘different’ learning experience. They love the exciting features that come with providing a learning experience from a mobile classroom with special effects. They love our Educator, and they love the infamous Harold. It seems that all these factors together with relevant teaching content make for a really memorable and beneficial learning experience. 

Sarah is clear in her advice to anyone considering volunteering for Life Education.

“Do it! While volunteering costs you time, what could be more important than investing in the wellbeing and education of our tamariki?”