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A shared mission: Spotlight on CQ Volunteers

5 July 2024

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Behind every camp is a team of dedicated volunteers. They drive the buses, organise the activities, cook the food, support the campers, and manage all the details of running camps. Our network of over 400 volunteers across the country are our lifeblood – without them, Camp Quality would not exist, and kids would not have a camp to attend every summer. 

Who makes up our volunteer network?

Camp Quality volunteers come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and professions. From people in corporate jobs to young students to retirees and everyone in between, this community is brought together by a shared desire to help out kids.

As Auckland Camper Registrar Ghissy explains it, “Everywhere else in life you see groups form around common interests, whether its sports or music or similar jobs. Camp Quality is joined together by this eclectic mix of people who genuinely want to give their time to help other people. It’s a special type of person who gives up a week of their life to care for someone else’s child for free. And Camp Quality is full of those kinds of people.”

Liz, Christchurch’s Companion Registrar adds, “At Camp Quality, you really feel like you’re with your people. Everyone is there because they truly want to be.”

That special shared bond and dedication is what defines our volunteer community. To bring some of these stories to life, we asked four incredible CQ volunteers about their experience – and why they keep coming back.

Ghissy, camper to registrar

At the age of 5, Ghissy went to hospital with a sore neck, and 18 months later, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, an extremely rare condition for children. After a 12-hour surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, Ghissy then lived her life with a tracheostomy for 18 months. She underwent radioactive iodine treatments and endless surgeries from the age of 5 to 16 years old.

Ghissy remembers camp as her favourite time of year. From age 8 to 16, she returned excited to see her camp friends and be in an environment unlike any other. When she was finally old enough to volunteer she was thrilled to be back. And when the position for Auckland/Northland Camper Registrar opened up, she took on the extra responsibility.

The Camper Registrar position is a year-round commitment. Ghissy responds to all new families in the area, and makes a personal visit to their home to chat in person about each child, their requirements, and how Camp Quality can support them on camp. “A lot of parents are very nervous,” she explains, “So we really want to take the time to get to know campers in their own environment. We want to ensure that parents understand that we stay in close contact with them all week, and we really can care for their kid.”

Ghissy describes how one of the most impactful parts of camp is actually being able to give the rest of the family a much-needed break. “In many cases, the parents have been on constant high alert for years. They don’t even know how badly they need a break – and Camp Quality is so unique in that we can actually give them that space. I love seeing the first timer parents, where about 3 or 4 days into camp, you can start seeing them relax.”

Ghissy has been involved with CQ for 22 years now, and her passion for the organisation has never been stronger.

Liz, on the committee for 10 years 

Liz first learned about Camp Quality Christchurch from her husband, who’s workplace - the Commodore Hotel - have been big supporters. From her very first year, she knew she had found something special. “It was an incredibly positive atmosphere. Everyone was just focused on the good, and on creating amazing memories for the kids.”

Unlike most volunteers who begin as companions, Liz went straight onto the committee as treasurer, and two years later became companion registrar. The role involved recruiting new volunteers, answering enquiries about getting involved, interviewing and training new applicants, and working with the Camper Registrar to match each camper with the right companion. 

After ten years, Camp Quality has taught Liz how to enjoy the moment and not take anything for granted. She is passing the role on to make room for other commitments now, but has been thrilled to be a part of the community for ten years.

Melissa, a first-time volunteer

Melissa connected with Camp Quality after her sister volunteered as a companion, and returned glowing about the experience. During the year, Melissa takes on a busy schedule as a lawyer in Ashburton. She also got her law firm, Argyle Welsh Finnigan Ltd, involved by hosting a fundraiser for CQ and supporting Melissa to take an extra week of holiday to be at camp. Volunteering was her way of giving back to an organisation that she felt aligned with her values. 

At Christchurch’s 2024 summer camp, Melissa was a companion to a new camper, so the two were experiencing it all together for the first time. The other companions and experienced volunteers were happy to offer guidance and support every step of the way, making it a really welcoming environment for someone new. The best part of camp, she says, was “seeing the experiences through the kids’ eyes. It takes you back to your own childhood, and you become a kid again for a week. It was such a privilege to be part of it all.”

Judy, Camp Nurse for 11 years 

After a career as a teacher, Judy (blue wig) became a nurse at age 41, and eventually worked in the paediatric day ward at Wellington Hospital. There, she met dozens of kids and their whānau who were going through the toughest time of their lives. Through the Child Cancer Foundation, Judy agreed to try out volunteering as a camp nurse at the Wellington/Central Districts summer camp in 2013. In her words, “That was it. I was hooked.”

She describes, “Seeing the kids that I nursed through their cancer journeys in this amazing space where they were just being regular kids again – it was incredible. It was like they had climbed this huge mountain, and camp was where they could come back down the other side.”

In her 11 years volunteering, she has gotten to know countless campers, many of whom she also knew in hospital. One year, she realised that out of the 70 or so kids at camp, she had nursed about 30 of them! She’s also developed beautiful friendships with the fellow camp nurses. Now retiring as a nurse, Judy is sad to step down from the role, but has loved all of the good memories and connections she’s made over the years. We thank Judy for all the sparkle and loving care she’s brought to campers and volunteers.

Who we are – people who care about other people

So many of our volunteers come away saying how camp makes them feel they’re at home, surrounded by the best bunch of people. That sense of community, of shared dedication, of genuine interest in making a difference, is what keeps so many returning to camp year after year.

We are so proud to have a network that comes together like this. Most volunteer organisations struggle with high turnover and difficulty keeping people engaged – but the magic of camp means that our volunteers come away just as filled up, excited, and hungry for more as our campers. 

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