It’s National Volunteer Week, a time to honour the energy and mahi of volunteers in Aotearoa New Zealand. We sat down for a chat with Volunteer Driver and Gardener Paul Maguire to find out more about his volunteer work and why he does it.
Hi Paul, so tell me, what do you do at Tōtara Hospice?
I sold my business two years ago and was lucky enough to retire early. My wife suggested I keep busy! We knew a few people who volunteered at Hospice and talked to them about any needs they had. As it turned out, the previous driver had retired, so I volunteered to pick up patients one day a week.
You also work in the garden?
Yeah, after dropping off the patients at Hospice, I typically have a few hours before I need to take them home again. Sometimes I would grab a coffee at the café and read a book, or I’d walk around the grounds. About a year ago, I was in the garden and met Donald the Facilities and Maintenance Manager. I love being outdoors and playing with chainsaws and whatnot, so I offered to do a bit of gardening in my wait times.
What does a typical day involve?
The volunteer system is very well organised. I get a phone call on the weekend from the coordinator and they let me know who I’m picking up and when. They also send a confirmation email with names, addresses and times.
I pick up my patient and get them to their Hospice appointment on time. I’ll pick up whoever I need to, but it’s always nice when it’s a regular as you get to know them. You quickly learn what people need when they’re in the car: a chat, music, or some quiet to let them rest and focus.
What do you get out of being a volunteer?
It’s a massive pleasure to help people who need help. It gives me a sense of self-worth, and, really, it’s the least I could do to help other people for one or two days a week.
Also, I get brownie points at home when I tell my wife what I've done during the day!
What have you learnt while volunteering?
I’ve learnt to consider others more and that it’s a pleasure to do it! It’s about being part of a community—doing your bit. All it takes is checking up on someone, maybe cleaning up their front yard. I hope someone would do the same for me if I was in need.
That’s lovely, you’re helping build the kind of community you want to live in. Any favourite moments that come to mind?
There are so many special little moments. Just yesterday, a patient baked me some Afghan biscuits and gave them to me when I picked her up. I don’t expect anything, but it’s nice when someone shows their appreciation.
About a month ago, I met a lady in Café Aroha at Hospice. She had been walking around the gardens in the rain looking for her daughter's plaque. I struck up a conversation with her and we chatted for an hour. When I look back on it, I was in the right place at the right time to lend her an ear. It was very special to share that short time together.
What would you say to people who are thinking about volunteering?
It’s ideal for someone like me who has a bit of time. There’s so much flexibility. You can try something out and see if you enjoy it. If not, there are loads of other areas around Hospice to help in. You get a lot out of it; I really enjoy the days when I’m volunteering.
Coffee drinker? What’s your go-to order? Flat White. When I’m messy from the garden, I stick my head in the side window like a giraffe to order at Café Aroha. It always manages to get a few laughs.
Cats or dogs? Neither. I’m a tree hugger!
Nights or mornings? I suppose mornings, but I’m slow to start. I like to walk my wife to work and back and then will get going for the day.
Messy or tidy? A laid-back version of tidy. Gardening is a bit like tidying; I like to get everything in order. I’m good on the vacuum at home too!