Red Cross team takes to the water at the Wellington Dragon Boat Festival

16 March 2023

This month our incredible team of paddlers took to the water in the Wellington Dragon Boat festival.   

The team didn’t know each other when they first started training eight weeks ago. Most of the team are volunteers.  Some had never been in a dragon boat before. Others, like Laura Gylanders, return year after year.

Laura said “It was a really fun day! Such a fun atmosphere. The crowd was amazing. Such a unique and amazing opportunity. We all love Red Cross and the work they do. It's so vital, especially right now.”  

Lucy Rhodes, Community Fundraising Advisor, and team captain added "It is an awesome mix of veterans and newbies. We are so grateful for their enthusiasm on and off the water and for their support for our work." 


“I'm proud to be doing my bit to support the great work done by New Zealand Red Cross. It's fun learning the skills of dragon boating with a really enthusiastic bunch of crew mates, some old hands and some newbies like me. The physical side is a big challenge but it's the teamwork that will get us going fast on race day!” David Jeffreys

As well as training every week, the Dragon Boat team have been fundraising to help make a difference.

There were flatmate dinners, sausage sizzles, cake stalls, and clothes sales. Together they’ve raised over $15,000 to support our work. This fundraising helps us deliver meals to vulnerable people, support newly arrived refugees, and support people through disasters.  

Read more about donating to where the need is greatest.

“Being a former refugee, I’m personally invested in contributing to the essential resources and support that Red Cross offers for many refugee families and communities" Zarina Ahmed

The Hawke's Bay team

The New Zealand Red Cross team was paddling with teams from all around the country.   We were happy to lend some paddling hands of support to our fellow dragon boaters from Hawke’s Bay. They were short of paddlers and a few of our team joined their crew for a couple of races.  

Dot Foote, the captain of the Hawke’s Bay team, talked to us about their journey to the water. Following Cyclone Gabrielle a rāhui was placed on the water in the bay because of contamination, which meant the team couldn’t train. Three of the club’s regular paddlers had serious damage to their homes and businesses.  

Dot said “There has been an amazing response to the needs of the community with organisations such as Red Cross offering much-needed support and practical assistance.” 

It wasn’t not an easy decision for the team to travel to Wellington for the event. They hoped the stories from the weekend of dragon boating would be a little light relief for those at home. Dot said the atmosphere at the festival was welcoming and encouraging.  

Paddling together with the Hawke’s Bay team in the last race was a fitting end to the day for our Red Cross team. Every day we help vulnerable people all around New Zealand – supporting them in times of disaster or emergency, helping new Kiwis resettle here, or delivering hot meals and other community services. We’re here for you even if that means getting in the boat and paddling with you.   

Find out more

Email our fundraising team to join the team next year.

Find out more about fundraising to make a difference.

Read more about our work in New Zealand.