Carol Larson is a volunteer at the Save the Kiwi kiwi crèche in Napier. As it turns out, her love of volunteering goes right back to when she was a child.

Volunteering is in Carol Larson’s blood.

As a child growing up in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts in the United States, Carol was part of a large family where everyone had a job to do to contribute. After working as a schoolteacher for many years, she volunteered in schools and taught children how to read, and later taught immigrants to the US how to speak English.

So when she emigrated to New Zealand in 1982 with her Kiwi husband, it was only natural that she continued her passion for volunteering.

“When I moved here, I knew I wanted to give back to my adopted home,” says Carol. “New Zealand has a wonderful volunteering system. When organisations don’t have enough hands or resources, a huge amount of work can be accomplished thanks to volunteers. In the collective we can make a big difference, and volunteering is something positive that I can give to the world when there’s so many other things going on around us.”

Carol’s family was also passionate about the outdoors.

“As children, my parents taught us a lot about the bush including how to identify plants and animals, and how to respect it. My father was also a birder so when I came to New Zealand, I wanted to learn more about the special birds that live here.”

Carol’s first encounter with a kiwi was when she took up a job as the Education Manager at the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, and it was love at first sight.

“It’s such an unusual, quirky bird – how could you not love them?!”

Now that she’s retired, it seems only natural that she continues her passion for both the kiwi and giving back to the community by volunteering at Save the Kiwi’s kiwi crèche in Napier. Every Wednesday morning, she helps with tasks that free up time for crèche staff Bev and Miriam to carry out weekly health checks on the kiwi that call the crèche their temporary home. She collects food dishes and weighs any leftovers to see how much the birds ate overnight, cleans water dishes and fill them up, and replaces leaf matter in the kiwi burrows. She also gets up close and personal with kiwi.

“Bev and Miriam have been very inclusive and generous in letting me help with health checks,” she says. “They’ve taught me how to hold a kiwi correctly and safely, and I help assess their feet, eyes, and ears during their weekly health checks.

“Wednesdays are very busy, especially because there are currently more than 20 birds onsite at the moment, so I know that Bev and Miriam really appreciate the help.”

Carol also relishes the opportunity to work with animals.

“I love that I can arrive on a Wednesday and see how the birds have changed since I last saw them. They all have different personalities, and I love seeing their progress over time until they’re able to leave the crèche and be released into the wild.”

For Carol, volunteering is a core value of her life that allows her to both give back to her community and honour her family.

“I volunteer for my soul really,” says Carol. “It makes me feel so good to be able to help other people, and I firmly believe that if we all do a little bit we’ll all make a difference.

“We come up from the shoulders of our ancestors. My parents were passionate about the bush and about helping people, and I still want to make them proud. My sisters in the States and my family here in New Zealand are very proud of me too and love seeing photos of me working with kiwi.

“It just makes me feel wonderful knowing that I’m making a difference.”