If you’re in New Zealand right now, you might have noticed that it’s getting a bit chilly! The mountains are snow-capped, the chairlifts are cranking at the ski resorts and the air is crisp. Whilst it may be a beautiful time of year to visit NZ as a traveller, we know that this season isn’t easy for everyone. Last week, team Stray visited the Auckland City Mission to volunteer and give back to those in the local community who are struggling this winter.
The Auckland City Mission was established in 1920 and has grown to become one of Auckland’s most influential social service providers. The services that they offer have developed over time to reflect social changes but their purpose still remains – to help desperate Aucklanders in need. The people that ask for help from the Mission range from rough sleepers to isolated elderly and struggling families.
The Mission relies on the support of over 4,000 volunteers every year and, this year, 10 of those volunteers were Stray staff members. Our volunteering duties included packing emergency food parcels for families in need and sorting donated clothing items. We split up into two teams and got to work!
Sorting donated clothing items
Upstairs, the team were busy rummaging through bags of clothes. We organised items into categories (summer and winter, child and adult, male and female etc.) whilst also doing a quality check to make sure there were no stains or rips. The clothes were then sorted into more specific categories (jeans, shirts etc.), folded and packed into boxes.
Basic items are given to those in need and branded items are kept and sold in the op shops or on TradeMe for profit. Some of our team members took advantage of this opportunity and walked away with a bargain or two (including some $10 Nike trainers and a cute Christmas jumper). If you’re an op-shop fanatic and want to give back to the community, make sure to check out the City Mission shops located in the CBD, Glen Innes, Takapuna and at their distribution centre in Grafton. All proceeds help to fund the Mission’s vital social services.
Did you know? The Mission spends thousands of dollars each year disposing of broken, unclean items. Which means, donations can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help if they are not high quality and clean. Keep this in mind if you’re keen to donate in future!
Packing emergency food parcels
Downstairs, the rest of the team were hard at work packing family food boxes with all the essentials to last a family of 4 for 4 days. Each box consisted of the basics (milk, rice, flour, sugar), some tin cans (beans, spaghetti, fruit, veg) and then any extra donations (crisps, hot chocolate, tea, biscuits, spreads etc.)
We devised a plan to make the process as efficient as possible – top notch team work! We assigned everyone a role – from measuring quantities of oats/rice/flour, placing tins into boxes, sealing boxes and moving boxes to the pallets. It worked like clockwork. Well….. kind of. There were definitely a lot of ‘oops’s ‘sorry’s ‘excuse me’s as we tried to maneuver around a very tight space but our efforts payed off. We packed 60 boxes between 6 of us!
Once the boxes have been packed, they are sent to the hub in the city centre for families to collect. However, donations are not restricted to those who are able to collect directly from the Mission. The City Mission split bulk food donations and distribute them to community food banks around Auckland. On average, they distribute over $1,000,000-worth of food every year.
At Stray, we aim to make a difference in all that we do. We do right by our customers, our team, our environment and our community – volunteering allows us to use our time in a worthwhile way, to give back and also to grow and improve. It was a very eye opening experience for us, encouraging us to think more about the way that we consume/dispose of things and how much we take food, shelter and clean clothing for granted. Many of us were inspired to waste less and donate more and we hope to volunteer with the Auckland City Mission again in the future.
Top tip: If you’re a backpacker heading home from Auckland, why not drop off your unwanted sleeping bag, clothes and leftover cans at the Mission (140 Hobson Street)? Sure beats throwing them in the bin or leaving them in your hostel.
Are you keen to volunteer with the Auckland City Mission, donate goods or go bargain hunting in their op shops? You can find more information on their website.