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Giving back: Sharing skills brings life-long reward

Monday 9 May 2016 4:59pm

Josh Lowry (right) with his camper Sam at Camp Quality South in Queenstown last year.

A University staff member’s volunteer work ranges from helping New Zealand children living with cancer to demonstrating science to Cambodian children with HIV, and teaching IT skills to Dunedin kids.

Division of Sciences Web Developer Josh Lowry recommends volunteering because it’s good for you, good for the people you help, and good for almost everyone else.

He is Chairman of the Child Cancer Foundation Dunedin branch, a volunteer with The Gasworks children’s Minecraft club and digital literacy programmes in South Dunedin, and a member of local and national committees for Camp Quality, a charity that provides camps and other experiences for children living with cancer.

His first taste of volunteering came by chance through Camp Quality back in 2006.

His mother’s workmate was involved and urgently needed a couple more volunteers for the annual camp so asked if Josh and his brother would be keen.

“I agreed … thinking that it would be a one-off bit of fun and a good deed, but once I met the kids and realised the impact that this week each year had on their lives I was hooked.”

Josh’s University and volunteer work overlap in more than one area, mostly with The Gasworks club which provides a space for kids to learn skills like fair play, how to collaborate and basic computer literacy while playing Minecraft with each other.

“As part of my role at the University, I ran a trial Code Club on campus last year for students from George Street Normal School. This was very successful, and we’re looking into expanding this to The Gasworks, targeting students from the South Dunedin area. This collaboration between The Gasworks and Otago would include support from the University’s Volunteer Centre in recruiting and training student volunteers to assist with the club.”

Josh is also receiving support from Otago’s Chemistry Outreach team with a separate project based in rural Cambodia at Wat Opot — a clinic, community outreach centre, and community for children living with HIV.

Josh spent a month there last year and his long-term goal is to set up a lab of durable computers at Wat Opot to teach the children a variety of computer skills.

“There is an arts program on site but I aim to kindle an interest in the sciences too. The Chemistry Outreach team is providing activity ideas, and resources.”

Volunteering clearly takes up a lot of Josh’s spare time but he recommends everyone gives it a go.

“You'll improve yourself and the world. I have gained life-long friends, developed new skills and — most of all — I have been fortunate enough to meet many wonderful people who have gone through incredibly tough times yet still keep a smile on their face.”