Manawatu District Mayor Margaret Kouvelis 2013 Community Honours Address

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Ghandi

Volunteering for me is at the heart of any coherent community.  It is the social fabric that knits us together, motivates us to get to know our neighbour, gives us confidence to engage with people of different walks of life, different cultures, different income brackets, different beliefs. Volunteering is the ultimate respecter of human beings. It doesn’t ask for an application form, it doesn’t demand a police check, it doesn’t require a Level 2 pass in NCEA, it doesn’t ask for a referee’s report, it doesn’t bother about the size of your pay packet, or your sexual orientation, or what school you went to.

Volunteers by definition are not paid -- not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless!

Volunteering is borne out of the womb of generosity and it does not subscribe to the scarcity model at all. It measures success by the ‘feel good factor’.

It asks itself only one question - has my action today on behalf of another person made me more fully human?  If the answer is ‘yes’ then humanity has been served, not just the person with whom you connected.

Mother Theresa said “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Sadly governments and institutions behave sometimes as if People were not the most important thing on this planet.

As I move around our district and see the quality of community committees, community projects, events, organisations, clubs, and fundraising, I am humbled by the modesty, energy, enthusiasm and achievements of our unsung heroes and heroines.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” --Margaret Mead

It is part of our Kiwi DNA to be able to find a solution to a dream especially when the funding is in short supply. Some people want it to happen, some wish it to happen but volunteers make it happen.

As we salute these three people now, we are mindful of the army of volunteers that exist alongside them making this community a better place, hospitable healing and a uniquely Manawatu place. Their legacy will live on and be an inspiration to others.

The word ‘Manawatu’ has a special significance: ‘Manawa’ refers to ‘heart’ and ‘tu’ describes ‘something that has comes to a halt’.

The Maori ancestor Hau, on seeing the awesome Manawatu River for the first time, is said to have uttered the words ‘ka tu taku manawa’ which means ‘my heart stands still’. When we see the awesome work, each of you whom we honour here tonight  have given to this place over many years, our hearts stand still.

May I remind you all that while we might make a living by what we do, we make a life by what we give.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

19 December 2013