Charles is a young man studying Law and Accounting full-time at university, while working towards an outdoor instructor’s qualification at Otago Polytech. Yet, he still finds time to help out school kids while volunteering for New Zealand Red Cross.

It’s a passion he discovered in Year 11 at high school in Nelson, first helping out with Red Cross’ annual appeal, before moving on to teaching kids outdoor skills.

“My family’s always been into volunteering, my brother started volunteering at the SPCA while I was at school. I saw how much he was giving back and I wanted to do something like it. I started helping Red Cross with their annual appeal, when one day a lady in the office asked ‘Are you free to help out at one of our camps?’”

Charles spent three years teaching disadvantaged kids outdoor skills like tramping and kayaking.

“I met lots of kids from low socio-economic backgrounds. Many had low self-esteem. Some of the kids turned up in jandals to go tramping. Some didn’t want to get into a kayak because they were scared of water. By the end of the camps though, they were completely different people, and had grown so much in their confidence.”

The next step in Charles’ volunteering journey was to join New Zealand Red Cross’ National Youth Panel. It was an easy decision to run for the panel, he says, as he believes strongly in the importance of involving young people, particularly in governance processes.

One of twelve elected representatives on the National Youth Panel, part of Charles’ remit is to increase the involvement of youth in Red Cross activities, while being involved in decision-making processes and reporting to the National Board.

“Youth make up a large percentage of our population. Anyone can be affected by a disaster, whether they’re aged from 1 to 100, and need Red Cross’ help at any time. If we help everyone, we should include everyone. Youth are a big part of that.”

Charles has an interest in international humanitarian law and would be interested in joining Red Cross in this area in the future.

His advice to young people thinking about getting involved? “Just do it. Go into your local branch or service centre and sign up. There’s so much to get involved in with Red Cross.”