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People Making Changes Issue 17 -
Save The Children Fund

- Dorothy - 22/5/97

“For fifty years since the first branch was established in Christchurch, New Zealand, volunteers have worked tirelessly to raise funds to help children in need around the world.”

Save the Children Fund
For half a century volunteers have been a strong force for creating effective change through raising money to assist the work of the Save the Children Fund.

"Oh, I'm just a volunteer," was the comment I heard the other day from someone who was working for the Save the Children Fund.

When I heard that last year volunteers raised $44.000, more than a tenth of the $369,763 raised by the branch, I decided to try to find out more about this organisation and the remarkable work of its volunteers.

Establishment of the Save the Children Fund in New Zealand
It was in Christchurch on 30 June, 1947, that the first meeting of the Save the Children Fund was held in New Zealand - nearly fifty years ago. Some New Zealanders had been subscribing to the Fund in England, but this meeting was called to discuss setting up the Fund as an independent organisation in New Zealand.

Through dedicated networking the support base was widened beyond the city and branches opened up in areas other than North Canterbury, and in 1952 the Fund set up a Central New Zealand Committee. It is now organised from a national office in Wellington.

Fiftieth Anniversary
On June 6 to 8 the National Conference is being held in Christchurch, the birthplace of SCF in New Zealand - an occasion for celebration of the past and planning for the future.

Aim of SCF
The aim is to support, through SCFNZ, SCF projects for the welfare of children overseas and within New Zealand - "to relieve child distress and hardship and to promote the welfare of children in any country or countries, place or places, without differentiation on grounds of colour, nationality, creed or sex.." (Extract from the Rules of the North Canterbury Branch)

The North Canterbury Branch of SCF raises money for such projects from a variety of sources, with legacies, bequests, and sponsorships providing much of their income. One important source is the sale of goods made by volunteers, which in the last financial year contributed $44.000.

This amounts to a large enterprise, but where does Save the Children get the staffpower and the expertise for the work of such a large organisation? There are no paid staff in the North Canterbury Branch - only in the National office in Wellington. All the work of the Branch is done by volunteers, and the majority of them are 'retired' people. 'Retired' is rather a misnomer, however, because these volunteers work very hard. The only aspects of retirement that seem to fit are the flexibility of their hours and the absence of a pay packet at the end of their work!

Most of the volunteers are women. Over fifty women work in the SCF Shop selling trading goods supplied from Wellington. Popular items are the greeting cards and the linen tea towels with the SCF name on them. Profits from the shop pay the Fund's administrative costs.

Fund-raising events during the year
The main events during the year are the fete held on the first Friday in November, the stalls held at all available venues, such as the Agricultural and Pastoral Shows around Canterbury, an annual charity golf match, a bridge tournament, and a luncheon with entertainment - again all organised by teams of volumteers.

Distribution of the gifts at the Christmas Tree in the Christchurch Cathedral
The tree is provided by the Cathedral, and the people of Christchurch donate gifts at the tree for needy children. It is a band of SCF workers who each year sort the gifts, repair the toys where necessary, and send them to appropriate destinations for Christmas. The needy children may be in New Zealand or overseas.

The unseen force of volunteers creating goods for sale
Some women coordinate the activities of large teams of volunteers who create hand made goods, run the annual fair and take every opportunity to sell their wares during the year.

The Work of a Coordinator
I talked to Shirley Rudkin, one of the Canterbury coordinators, just before

Photo of Shirley Rudkin
Shirley Rudkin
she took goods to be sold at the SCF Annual Charity Golf Match. I asked her how she obtained the skills she needed for her present position and how she became involved with SCF.

Developing the skills
The first skill she mentioned was communicating with people individually or in groups. She had gained confidence in communicating in what was largely a men's world when she worked in the office of her father's timber business before she was married.

Parent Teacher Association a valuable training ground
Like many women after she had spent some years at home bringing up her three children she felt that she had lost touch with the outside world, but accepted nomination for the committee of the Parent Teacher Association at Rangi Ruru Presbyterian Girls' School where her daughters were pupils. With this work her confidence grew and she accepted nomination for president of the Association - an ideal choice as she had been a pupil herself. She felt somewhat daunted at chairing meetings mostly of business people, but they were supportive and she soon enjoyed the work.

Shirley is always willing to try something new. While she was on the committee a new school uniform was introduced, and she cut seventy sets of patterns for all the major stores who were to have the uniforms made for sale - excellent practice for the hundreds of articles she has cut out for Save the Children.

Membership of service groups
As the family grew up the school involvement ceased and Shirley then worked as a volunteer for the Leprosy Trust Board and joined Zonta, where her experience in running meetings was used again in her role as Vice President and President. She has also served on committees at the Presbyterian church which she attends and it was through church friends that she became involved in SCF. All these activities were useful training for the demanding role she now fills for SCF.

Networking skills
A valuable result of being able to communicate freely with people is the development of networking skills. Since she has become involved with Save the Children Shirley has used her networking skills to the full. Her husband worked in the clothing manufacturing business established by his family, Lane Walker Rudkin, and through him she was able to obtain fabrics. She has cut out hundreds of items ready for the sewers. She also approaches other business people for help. Through her contacts she has been able to organise donations of fruit for jam making, but Shirley has not been satisfied just to network. She has collected the fruit herself and frozen it to be made into fresh jam just before the fair. Whatever is donated she collects in the station wagon which she has bought to make deliveries easier.

Further networking has brought the chance of SCF stalls at other fairs. Shirley is ready to move into action when there is a chance to sell. When the goods are not moving quickly enough she organises lunches or dinners at her home where people are invited to come with cheque book.

As in all retail ventures the teams have to be aware of market trends and

Photo of Shirley Rudkin with toys
Shirley ready to pack the toys for the stall.
change their output to suit buyers' changing needs. The large number of inexpensive imported children's clothes available in the shops has meant that there is no longer a ready sale for these, so the teams have changed their output. Toys are always good sellers and the teams have produced a rich variety. A group of Dutch women produces a range of knitted toys which are highly sought after.

A team effort
Shirley is quick to emphasise that she is just the coordinator and that without the dedicated teams who sew and knit and cook, the stalls would not take place.

She also reminded me that although most of the volunteers who work regularly are women there is a lot of background support from their husbands. Shirley's husband, Colin, has coordinated a group of men who have assisted each year in publicising the fair and setting up the stalls, and in the more humdrum task of clearing up afterwards.

The rewards
Shirley gains immense satisfaction out of the sale of the goods and the growth in the funds to help needy children. She believes that being involved and active keeps people young. She enjoys the friendships which have developed from her community involvement.

The Unpaid Workforce
The Save the Children workers are only one of numerous groups throughout New Zealand who are supporting voluntary organisations. If you have some free time do approach one of the organisations needing volunteers, join the unseen and unpaid work force, use the skills you have developed over the years, make new friends and help others in need at the same time.

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