Buying groceries, collecting prescriptions and sourcing firewood is all in a day’s work for Western Waikato Emergency Operations
Centre volunteer ‘buddy’ David Nordell.
The Kihikihi resident is one of 122 volunteer buddies available to help vulnerable people in Waipā, Ōtorohanga and Waitomo districts during the COVID-19 response.
Volunteer buddies can assist their support person with buying groceries, medication and household goods, providing psychosocial support and transporting to and from essential appointments.
The buddy system was set up by the Western Waikato Emergency Operation Centre’s welfare team which recognised some people referred by the Waikato Welfare Call Centre required more in-depth support.
“It was a ‘no-brainer’ for me to put my hand up,” Nordell says.
“I knew there was a need in my backyard and I’ve got the time and skills to help.”
Over the last two weeks Nordell has been assisting three local people who need practical support and advice. He also checks in on his neighbours by phone to see if they need assistance.
“Life has changed very quickly for many people, and there are some residents who need help navigating life during the lockdown,” he says.
The support role comes naturally to Nordell, who has experience in Search and Rescue and community patrol and owns a car restoration business in Kihikihi.
“I’ve always grabbed life by the horns and am generally quite resourceful and practical,” he says.
“Plus, being a well-connected local means that I know who to reach out to for help and how to join the dots if someone needs to solve a problem.”
Nordell says vulnerable people might not find it easy to receive help from a stranger.
“Part of my job is to build up that rapport and trust with the people I support over time.”
It’s a message echoed by Western Waikato Emergency Operations Centre local controller Dave Simes.
“Don’t be too proud to ask for help if you are in need - we have support at hand.”
Simes says the service has been popular since it launched on Friday 3 April, with more than 20 volunteer buddies supporting people.
In addition to the volunteer buddy service, the welfare team has also provided support to 83 people across the three districts.
All residents in Waikato can access local help by calling 0800 800 405 between 7am and 7pm.
Volunteer buddies are vetted and sourced from recognised support agencies and follow Ministry of Health guidelines including physical distancing, handwashing and other self-care instructions.
Stay kind, be considerate
Public Information Manager - Western Waikato Emergency Operating Centre
027 382 3218 | firstname.lastname@example.org