These volunteers and members deliver meals on wheels, help transport elderly people from their homes to appointments, work in Red Cross shops, respond to emergencies on the ground, organise local branch activities and support refugee families into their new home here in New Zealand - just to name a few. The work we do would simply not be possible without these generous Kiwis.

National Volunteer Week (21-27 June) provides a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the invaluable knowledge, skills, time and contributions given by these volunteers to Red Cross and communities around Aotearoa.

We asked Red Cross staff to nominate volunteers and members who've done an outstanding job in their community. We were overwhelmed with the responses received. Here is a snapshot of some of the nominations.

Michelle Burton, Refugee support volunteer, Auckland

I’m a refugee support volunteer. That involves helping someone to be welcomed to New Zealand, and helping them to find their way around society and how things work here. To be their friend where you can, and to be an advocate for refugees – so to help correct misconceptions in people’s attitudes and to teach others how to be welcoming.

I think it is very important that everyone gives back to the community as a whole. We are very lucky to have been born and raised in this country, and we have a lot of opportunities that other people don’t. You can’t really truly understand someone until you try to walk in their shoes – so for me it’s really important to give back, to be a genuinely caring person and also for my children to learn that, hey, they’re really lucky. Some people aren’t so lucky, and we all need to help each other out in life.

Rebecca Johnson, member and volunteer, Waitara branch

I’m a member of Waitara Branch and help when and where I can, with everything from fundraising, delivering equipment, community transport, coming up with new ideas, attending branch meetings and in the last year trying to save our local community hall.

Why do you volunteer for New Zealand Red Cross?

My mum has been involved with New Zealand Red Cross for over 30 years and as kids we helped collect door to door, phone calls, etc. It’s such an important organisation that helps so many people so it’s worthwhile. I love the fact Red Cross helps all people and humanity, not a select few. Red Cross is unbiased and doesn’t judge who is assisted - it’s about community spirit and caring for others.

Tessa Brandes – Research intern, refugee support volunteer, Auckland

I enrolled in the refugee support programme because of my internship at Red Cross. When you (Heidi Cripps, volunteer trainer) told me over the phone what the subject of the research project would be - a qualitative examination of the refugee support programme - I became very curious about the programme itself. And I was very lucky that a new intake of volunteers was just about to start!

I volunteer for New Zealand Red Cross because I very much support the work of the organisation, as well as its fundamental principles. I think it is really special that such an acknowledged and worldwide organisation functions so well on a volunteer base. It's not only really necessary that people volunteer for Red Cross, it's also a lot of fun. Being new to Auckland, I met some great people and integrated more into the community, which is a nice bonus!

My favourite volunteer moment was actually this afternoon, when we took our client out for lunch and to play mini-golf to celebrate her birthday. Her being from Syria, the other volunteer from New Zealand and me coming from Holland, we keep being amazed by all the cultural differences we discover every time we meet up. It's so enriching and interesting and yet, at the same time, I realise we are all so similar. It's great to be able to laugh about silly things together, that's when you realise you have become real friends.

Micah Roughton, emergency management volunteer, Waikato

Why do you volunteer for New Zealand Red Cross?

Originally, like most people, I watched the events unfold in Christchurch. I decided that next time I did not want to just watch such events, but be able to help; because I don't just want to watch the hardship people go through, I want to be able to make a difference.

As I have become more involved with New Zealand Red Cross I have realised that I am part of something that is bigger than myself. Social media has really highlighted this. When you see news coming through on Facebook and Twitter, people dress up in their bright red overalls with bright red medical bags, head into the world's biggest conflict zones and help humanity; independently and neutrally. This really inspires me to carry on volunteering and make differences where I am.

Do you have a favourite volunteer moment? Could you please describe it for us?

Our team were asked to support an intake of refugees by moving and settling them into their homes. I thought this would be a cool opportunity to be involved and make a difference. So the night before I thought it would be good idea to learn some phrases in the language of the refugees to make it easier on them; so I spent most of the night learning phrases.

The next morning we waited for the bus loads of refugees to arrive. Armed with my phrases that I had learnt, I was ready and prepared. The bus arrived and the first refugee stepped off the bus and looked me in the eye and said, “hey bro”, like a long lost brother. I thought this was even funnier considering I had spent the whole night trying to learn phases, to then be greeted with, “hey bro." I stood there shocked. The rest of the experience was humbling and I will remember it for the rest of my life. We joined the refugees for a powhiri, the presentation of medals and a feast of a lunch from our culture and their culture. At the end of the day we delivered all the personal belongings that each refugee owned. What really challenged me was that as I held two bags, going through my mind was that this is everything they own and wondering what their stories were.

Natasha Simpson, shop volunteer, Richmond

Natasha is 23 years old and unable to do what most young women her age do, the highlight of her week is volunteering at the shop and it’s great to know that as well as what she is doing for the Red Cross we are giving back something that helps her.

Why do you volunteer for New Zealand Red Cross?

Due to my health issues I am unable to work full time. On one of my visits to the Red Cross Shop I saw a notice wanting volunteers so I joined the team in August 2012. I joined being a shy, quiet person but after volunteering two days a week I have now become a confident young lady. It gives me a purpose to meet and greet new people. This is my way of giving back to the community and helping people in need.

Volunteers should be appreciated, mobilised, motivated and encouraged not only during this week but year-round. They are the force behind the work we do, and keep our communities connected and healthy. If you are interested in volunteering with Red Cross, find out more information here.