Volunteering opens new doors

By Jerrie Valli | Posted: Sunday March 10, 2019

Volunteering with Enliven's community service 'SupportLink' in Wakatipu has opened new doors for Sergio Pivetta, who is now taking steps to pursue a career in aged care.

Sergio, 36, has always enjoyed the company of elderly people. In his home country, Argentina, he spent many years looking after his elderly grandmother, while studying and working on the family farm.

When he came to New Zealand in 2011, he looked after a friend’s father before returning to Argentina.

Then, when he came to Queenstown five years ago and took a job at a hotel in the resort town, he saw an advertisement for SupportLink – a free community service run by Enliven Southland that matches trained volunteers with elderly people living in the community – and knew instantly it was a service he wanted to support.

Sergio was first matched with Mitsu, an elderly Japanese man, whom he became instant friends with. The pair would spend their time going for drives and going out for coffee; Sergio would even bring Mitsu in to his work at times, and on one occasion they both volunteered at a tree planting initiative. When Mitsu moved to a care home in Wanaka, Sergio was then matched with 96-year-old Jack, and so began another positive friendship. The pair would spend many hours chatting and simply became great friends.

“I have always enjoyed spending time with older people, you can learn a lot from them and it makes me happy,” Sergio said.

Now, Sergio is bound for Australia where he intends to study aged care with a specific focus on disabilities, with the ultimate goal of working in the sector.

“It will be a little bit strange, getting paid for doing something that I love, but I am excited too. Volunteering has been something amazing. I learnt a lot and I really enjoyed it. Now, I want to change the subject in my life and dedicate more time to people who need help.”

SupportLink Wakatipu co-ordinator Elaine Wells says Sergio made a hugely positive contribution to the service.

“Sergio was a great volunteer and ambassador and advocate for the SupportLink service,” she said.

“He encouraged his friends to be involved as well and the families of the clients he worked with held him in very high regard.”

SupportLink volunteers spend one to two hours a week with elderly people who live in the community. The main aim is to provide companionship, but volunteers often also assist with transport to and from appointments or activities, and many become firm friends. 

PSS Marketing and Communications Manager Courtney Forde said the SupportLink programme in Wakatipu is proudly supported by the Central Lakes Trust and Community Trust South.

“Presbyterian Support Southland is very grateful for the support local funders provide and their continued acknowledgement that what we do is really making a difference," Ms Forde said. 

To find out more about SupportLink and becoming a volunteer visit www.enlivensld.nz