Volunteering  |  20 Jun 2021

For passionate gardener Susan Lawrence taking people on tours around Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens is a labour of love.

She signed onto become a volunteer guide at the Botanic Gardens in 2012 after spotting a recruitment ad in the gardening pages of The Press newspaper.

The volunteer guides - all members of the Friends of the Botanic Gardens - run free walks in different parts of the Botanic Gardens each day between October and April.

 “I find being a volunteer guide incredibly rewarding,’’ says 72-year-old Mrs Lawrence, who leads two or three walks a month, co-ordinates the team of volunteer guides, and serves on the Committee of the Friends of the Botanic Gardens.

“It has provided me with an opportunity to learn and grow in my knowledge of plants. I cringe sometimes when I think of how little I knew at the start!’’ she says.

“Being part of a team is fulfilling – we are very supportive of one another and each one brings his or her own skills to the task, and we learn from each other.

“And, of course, having the opportunity to share our knowledge and stories with the public is a great privilege, whether they are locals or tourists. Local are often surprised at how much of the Gardens they are unfamiliar with.

Mrs Lawrence says engaging with the public on the tours is a two-way experience and the guides often come away having learned a thing or two themselves.

“Above all it is a great privilege to give out to others – our lives are enriched in the process.’’

Mrs Lawrence estimates she spends about 30 hours a month working on a voluntary basis for the Friends of the Botanic Gardens, which exist to support and promote the work of the Gardens.  Funds raised provide education and travel opportunities for Gardens’ staff,  apprenticeships and annual library grants amongst other things. 

A large volunteer team work in propagation, guiding, weeding and duties in the Kiosk. 

“I would encourage anyone who appreciates the sanctuary that is our Christchurch Botanic Gardens to join the Friends,’’ Mrs Lawrence says.

20 to 26 June is National Volunteer Week. Find out how you can make a difference in your community by volunteering.