The gift of giving

The rewards far outweigh the challenges for Habitat for Humanity volunteer Taylor Kennard.

“It’s easy to go about your own life and not be aware of others,” says Taylor Kennard, a 21-year-old with the kind of busy life that might excuse anyone from taking too much notice of the struggles of those around them.

Taylor, though, does notice. And she finds time to give back, something she does by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Along with proud partners AMI, Habitat for Humanity aims to achieve their goal of transforming the lives of 75,000 Kiwis over the next three years through providing warm, dry housing.

Taylor volunteers in the build team, helping to make homes healthier and more comfortable. This work has given her, she says, a sense of how important a home is for everyone.

“When you’re volunteering to help someone, you take on how they feel about their housing and how hard it can be for them. I feel really privileged… it makes me feel like I’m making a difference.”

Taylor recalls a memorable project where a family’s home was so uninhabitable, they’d rented shipping containers and were sleeping in them beside their house.

“We filled holes in the house, sealed it up and painted the outside; cleaned the mould off and things like that.”

Taylor was struck by the warmth and generosity of the host family, who despite their difficult living situation, offered hospitality in the form of a sausage sizzle to thank the Habitat volunteers.

Another highlight was Taylor’s first ever day of volunteering, helping to build a community garden in Ōtara to support a local man.

“He had this veggie garden on the side of his house and was giving vegetables to families who needed help with their grocery bill or couldn’t feed their children. So we put a massive veggie garden in his backyard, mowed his lawns and put fruit trees up to help him keep doing what he is doing. It was a really, really awesome experience.”

Other projects have been more challenging, such as helping a man with a hoarding disorder to clear out his house.

“The police had been called to his place many times to tell him to clear his house up, but because it’s a mental health disorder, he couldn’t do it. And so it went back and forth between the police and council, and then finally Habitat for Humanity was asked to help.”

At Habitat, Taylor also volunteers with administrative work, as well as putting together and distributing winter warmer packs consisting of heaters, blankets, hot water bottles and other winter essentials for families who need them. She’s also part of a global young leaders’ youth board in the organisation, aimed at encouraging youth engagement around the world.

Taylor recently finished her degree in criminology at AUT and has applied for the Air Force. Her life is “chaotic and busy” with two part-time jobs, netball, Brazilian jiu jitsu and other training. But she says she wants to keep giving time to Habitat.

“When I first volunteered, I wasn’t expecting to meet such lovely and kind people”, she says. “I’m very proud and very privileged to be part of such a cool organisation.”