Community mover, high school hero, volunteer superstar.
Sophie Ross sets a high benchmark, and at the age of 17 to boot. After founding an initiative called Volunteer NCG that has pulled together well over 100 volunteers from her school, she has been asked to speak at the Inspiring Stories' Festival for the Future in Auckland this year. Pretty exciting stuff. We have a wee chat to this Nelsonian about about what lights her spark.
What are your favourite ways to volunteer time in your community?
By encouraging others to become involved! Coordinating Volunteer NCG is so rewarding because I can create opportunities in areas that others find value.
The wonderful thing about volunteering is that there is something for everyone. It is important for young people to explore different areas which allow them to find things they are passionate about, to gain perspective and feel empowered about their ability to make a positive difference.
How have you personally experienced kindness and generosity in your lifetime?
I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by kind and generous people in my life. My parents are incredible people. They have instilled in me the importance of being moral and doing the right thing. For this I am grateful as it allows me to have the confidence in the fact that no matter what happens: if I am following my personal philosophies of right and wrong, then I can’t be doing too badly.
Who is someone that inspires you to aim high?
I was inspired to put together the youth volunteer group after seeing Jason Pemberton speak, firstly at the Nelson Youth Volunteer Summit and then at Festival for the Future 2014. Jason spoke so sincerely about his experiences with the Student Volunteer Army that formed in Christchurch following the major earthquakes. Yet, what stood out for me were his philosophies on the world and how individuals and groups can take action to solve issues. The kind of inspiration that empowers you by sparking passion and a can do attitude all at once.
My peers at school inspire me too, as there are some incredibly determined individuals that are living proof that you can achieve what you want through hard work. Young people are a powerful resource, with skills and energy to craft the world into the future.
Has their been a moment or anecdote of volunteering that really made you feel over the moon about what you had done?
My fondest memory is volunteering alongside the Inclusive Sports Trust. This group runs activities for children with physical and social disabilities. The kids are amazing, and the volunteers love it! It can be challenging at times, but so is a lot of the work that is most worthwhile.
I am so grateful for the girls who have eagerly put up their hand to be involved and have supported the volunteer programme. The responses from the families of those that attend Inclusive Sports have been very generous. Student involvement is so appreciated and a visible difference can be seen – it’s truly an incredible atmosphere and great feeling.
In 35 years, it will be 2050. What do you hope New Zealand will look like then?
I hope volunteer activities will be a part of New Zealand’s school systems, so that all young people nationally can be involved throughout primary and high school years. This should be a key part of youth development because it helps to form balanced and empathetic perspectives and subsequently well rounded people.
The challenges the world is facing are complex, and will continue to be. I believe if everyone was to volunteer from a young age, and possess the positive mentalities that can come with it, then the world would be a better place. In this world, the issues may not be as daunting because the solutions would be collaboratively identified and achieved.
Volunteering has taught me that for what needs to be done – to get done, we all need to chip in. This idea is what I love about the One Percent Collective and why I encourage others to support them and the charities they are partnered with.