i-Volunteer provides connection for some of New Zealand's most vulnerable

Media release

1 February 2021

IHC’s celebrated volunteer programme has expanded to online to provide friendship and connection for people with intellectual disabilities, and for family carers, no matter where they live in New Zealand. 

i-Volunteer is a one-to-one friendship programme that links people with intellectual disabilities and family carers with a friend who they can connect with online or by phone. The programme’s evolution comes on the back of a challenging year for some of the most vulnerable in our communities. 

IHC National Manager of Volunteering and Community Development, Sue Kobar, says IHC found during COVID-19 lockdowns that we need to rethink how we connect with the people we care about. “The lockdowns showed us that we can make meaningful connections without being face-to-face,” she says. “It’s not all about getting out and about.” 

The decision to expand the programme to family carers was the result of a partnership resource with Carers NZ, called wecare.kiwi, which was launched in response to nationwide lockdowns last year. The resource connected New Zealanders of any age living alone or caring for others with social connection and practical help. 

“It was through wecare.kiwi that we saw how significant the gap in the support available for family carers in New Zealand is,” says Sue. “Caring for a family / whānau member or a friend, can really affect a person’s ability to socialise, limiting their connections to support. Having a friend to chat to regularly can have a positive impact on a carer’s life."

During this time, Sue also saw established friendships, as part of the IHC Volunteer Programme, effortlessly adapt to not being able to spend time together. “Friends dropped notes in each other’s letterboxes or chatted over Zoom or on Facebook messenger. Distance and a lack of physical presence did not get in the way of their friendships thriving.” 

The i-Volunteer programme’s launch coincides with a new online application and orientation process for IHC volunteers. The online database includes E-Learning with volunteers having access to more than 400 topics so that volunteers can expand their knowledge. Topics include Autism, intellectual disability, health and safety, privacy and effective communication.

If you would like to find out more about the i-Volunteer Programme or would like to sign up, head to the Volunteering page of our website, call 0800 442 311 or email volunteering@ihc.org.nz. IHC welcomes applicants aged 17 and over from anywhere in New Zealand.