WelCom February 2024
When Gabrielle Carman was invited to a friend’s place for lunch last November, she was surprised to find out just how many other people there were there when she arrived.
Most of them were from St Vincent de Paul where Carman volunteers in New Plymouth.
And the surprises kept coming. A woman from the St Vincent de Paul Taranaki area conference stood up and gave Carman a certificate for all the work she’d done for the Society.
‘I thought OK, wonderful,’ Carman said.
Then there was another speech and another award. This time a Kiwibank local hero award.
‘I thought “just remain calm”. My mind was racing 100 miles an hour. Everybody in that room from St Vincent de Paul could have got that award. I was stunned.’
Carman moved to New Plymouth from Auckland in 2014 and got involved with St Vincent de Paul straight away, she said.
‘I thought I could be pretty useful somewhere, and I’m a member of the Catholic Church.’
One of the first things Carman did was help set up the community dinners at St Joseph’s parish hall on Tuesdays at 5.30pm. They get between 30 and 50 people for dinner every week, she said.
‘Last year we provided 2906 meals. That’s a lot for a small group of people. Things like this don’t happen because of one person.’
She was also involved in setting up Whare Kai, which offers weekly cooking classes to young families.
Sometimes, her volunteering role felt like it was 24 hours a day, she said.
‘Churches seem to be places where people go if they want stuff. So, people would wander into the parish office and say they had no food or they had nowhere to live and a lot of the time I responded to these in the weekends, at night. When things go wrong, it’s usually not in the middle of the day.’
But Carman has recently stepped back a bit due to her husband’s health, she said.
Her reasons for volunteering are varied, but mainly because she feels she is ‘very fortunate’.
As a child growing up in Wellington, Carman and her siblings used to catch the train to Hāwera to visit their grandmother, who also belonged to St Vincent de Paul.
‘I came from a family that didn’t have very much. My mother was very smart and determined, and she could make money and food stretch. We all went to university and got reasonable jobs. I realise I’ve been very lucky in my life. And I have some skills, and I’m ready to use them in the service of other people if I can. And I was retired.’
Source: Taranaki Daily News