My name is Johanna, and I’ve been volunteering for Sisters of Compassion for two months. I worked in their soup kitchen and in their garden, both located in Wellington.

I really enjoyed my time in New Zealand, because I’ve been able to do so much! And I don’t mean that I’ve done a lot of different works, I mean that I have done many different things. I have travelled to both “tourist places” (like Rotorua and Auckland) and more “off-track” places like Carterton and Jerusalem; I have worked with people (in the soup kitchen) and outdoors under the sky (in the garden); I have joined organisations like “Forest and Birds” and “Wellington Marathon Club”; I have had the possibility to do many walks in different kinds of native forests; I have been baking and cooking from New Zealand cookbooks; I have met friends through work, organisation, church, travelling and friends that you don’t really know how you met; and then have I seen just as many different things! I can tell you for sure that I never have been bored during my free time.

From left: Johanna, Sr Loyola & Kristen

Much of this is thanks to the sisters, which are a very coloured group, and full of surprises. During my whole stay here, have I lived and worked with different sisters and I have learned that everyone is friendly and almost compete in making sure you have everything you need and want. So when I have been travelling have most of the sisters I stayed with taken me in their car and guided me through the surroundings. I live with three other sisters in a big, nice two floor house in a nice neighbourhood. I have my own bedroom with a bathroom connected, but that is really luxury and not usual.

We have breakfast and evening meal in the house, but seldom together. You just eat when you feel for it and you can sit where ever you want (mostly in front of the TV). The main meal is at noon, and at work. Then does everyone eat together, and not too seldom do we get dessert (and always fruit too!).

I have really enjoyed my work in the garden, because I have felt like one in a team. We have been doing everything from battle with forests (they call it “weeding a little”) to plant seeds. I have learned so much about composts, and now I also know a lot of native plants and birds (for not speaking about all the new English gardening words!).

But the people makes the biggest different. And the people here always work with you, make sure that there are breaks for afternoon tea, and that we always are comfortable (warm clothes, no bend backs or kneeling on concrete). Most important they value you (and your opinions) just as much as anyone else’s.

In the soup kitchen has it mainly been cleaning because they were short of a cleaner for the moment, and that wasn’t always funny. Too much loneliness and too little brainwork. But as one person said: if you can be content cleaning toilets, you can do anything.

On the other hand, serving the guys in the soup kitchen was a lovely work (just done too seldom, of me). You met a lot of different people/friends and you got to hear a lot of interesting life stories.

I do recommend you to volunteer for Sisters of Compassion, but also have money for a trip on at least five weeks around New Zealand afterwards, because it’s a beautiful country (you believe a dinosaur should look out from the bush, and the hills, valleys and mountain are just wonderful with their free walking sheep and cows!).

Feel free to e-mail me at:

Johanna, Sweden (29/10/2003)