Sarah Mankelow

I volunteer for Humans of Christchurch Otautahi and Matuku Community Theatre

What is your touching moment?

 I am so fortunate to be part of a volunteer team of storytellers and photographers who together create the Humans of Christchurch Otautahi project.

Every time I meet and talk with a new human I gather up moments and store them like treasures in my memories. More than once I’ve had to hold back tears, but I never hold back the laughter.

Some touching moments:

  • Finding commonalities – like turning up to an interviewee’s home and discovering we are wearing the same shirt.
  • Celebrating diversity – meeting people like Sanjeewa who might have come from the other side of the world but shares the same values about giving back to the community – in his case via Community Patrols. 
  • Celebrating the joy and the simple things in life – meeting Pauline and her parrot who goes everywhere with her.

Being trusted to protect a sensitive story – I’ve more than once been gifted a story of grief and loss ‘off the record’ as part of an interview. To know that I have gained the trust of someone to allow them to open up and share that with me is truly humbling. 

What would you consider as the biggest benefit of volunteering?

I feel like I am making a positive contribution to society, putting my writing skills to good use. Of course, I get a lot out of it as well; I get to hang out and collaborate with a really amazing team of creative, kind people and there’s something very rewarding about that. 

What does volunteering mean to you?

There are so many stories that need to be told, stories the world needs to hear. Sharing these stories of struggles overcome might one day help someone to see they are not alone. Shining the spotlight on our everyday heroes is my way of giving back, of saying thanks for all you do.

I feel enormously privileged to hear some of these stories, to share in these memories and to be invited in, trusted to take this treasure and respectfully present it to the world. And the comments posted by those that read the stories – we so very rarely have negative comments on our page – it’s really heartening to see how people respond.