Born and bred on the banks of the Whanganui river, my life revolves around my whanau. My kotiro Te Ata Hapara is 5 now and enjoying kura, while my little tutu boy Rongotai, 1 year old, is in the school of hard knocks – learning how to walk!

My partner Romaine Rahui hails from Ngäti Whätua in the north but will never leave this beautiful place we call home – as long as I can keep her here!
I have always had a fairly optimistic outlook on life, but even still, the work I do is usually an effort to try and make this world a better place for my own tamariki and the generations to come.

I’m interested in culture and people, particularly my own. Sports and Kapahaka feature high in my list of extra curricular activities, as does the art of making music and being happy.

I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer alongside the amazing people at Te Ora Hou Whanganui who do great work with our young people. The passion and unfaltering commitment to young people of Whanganui is very humbling to be a part of. Te Ora Hou are my new adopted whanau!

There is nothing that makes Judy Kumeroa smile more than one of the youths she helps living up to their potential.

Judy is manager and youth worker at Te Ora Hou Whanganui, where she has worked with Whanganui’s young people for 18 years.
She became involved in For Our Kids after following its progress from inception.

Judy and her husband have over the past 16 years fostered countless young people, and also volunteer for the community action event Stone Soup, which is held every eight weeks, and attracts about 400 families for hangi, games and music.

“I’m motivated by my faith, and my compassion for children, young people and families. I love it.”

One of Judy's proudest moments was supporting three of the Te Ora Hou youths in writing and recording songs for the album Young…the life of, which was released two years ago.

“It was the most amazing thing. It was months of organization, writing and recording from young people in Whanganui, and to distribute that across the country and hear it on radio was an amazing success, I cried.”

One of her most important roles as a youth worker is to make each youth she works with recognize that they can change their lived and the lives of others. And it doesn’t nessarily take a lot of time, or skill to make a positive difference in the life of a young person, she says. And she says “everyone has something they can contribute”.

Sometimes, it simply means parents getting involved with their children’s sports teams.

“When I think about For Our Kids. I think about a bowling club adopting a school and donating their time to do some remedial reading.”

Carla Donson knows what it’s like to live through a challenging teenage existence.

But she also knows what its like to have your life changed for the better by the time and effort of volunteers, who inspired her to become one herself. Women’s Network manager Carla has been involved with volunteering since she was 14 years old.

“As a youngster my mum got cancer when I was 12, and died when I was 15. During those years it was very challenging for me and that was when I started volunteering and getting into coaching sports.”

Originally  from England, Carla said she had only immediate family in Whanganui and got her wider support network from working as a volunteer.
“It’s a little bit of giving back because of my own experiences in my teen years. We as a family experienced a lot of generosity by volunteers. Complete strangers, and I found that really inspiring and I wanted to be like them. They inspired me to make a difference in my own life and of others.”

Carla is involved in numerous organizations and community projects helping youth, including Life to the Max, the Violence Intervention network and the youth services Trust. She was also instrumental in establishing the Whanganui District Council’s Youth Committee.

“Being a teen is hard enough without having family and personal issues that are going on at the same time. So its very important that other people step in and take a leadership role.”

As for anyone volunteering, they should just do it. You never know what you might learn and experience along the way, she said.

“I think the amazing thing about being a volunteer is that it always exceeds your expectation, and the rewards that happen from relationship building and the inspiration that happens is so worth it.”