Rise issue 10 cover

Canterbury region MSD hero: Heather Steele

New Zealand Super community liaison Heather Steele gets a lot out of giving back. Her myriad volunteer activities, mostly in cricket, were recognised by the Christchurch community when the mayor presented her with a Civic award in December.


How did it make you feel to win the award?

I was elated, but at the same time rather shocked; especially having heard that only 14 awards were presented. I never imagined that my community work would be recognised further, having already been honoured for my 23-year involvement with a life membership in the Christchurch Suburban Cricket Association – the first for a female in the Association's 104 years.

I don't volunteer because I want to be recognised, I do it for the love and passion of the sport. I see the award as not only recognition for myself, but as an opportunity for the sporting bodies to be brought into the limelight and recognised.

What are some of your community projects?

When my children were young I became involved in various committees: kindergarten treasurer, the school Parent Teachers Association and Board of Trustees, other school committees, and rugby club junior committee treasurer. My husband Ray and I have also co-ordinated regular fundraisers for his cricket club.

More recently, I progressed to the Canterbury Rugby Union Junior Management Board, overseeing teams playing rugby in the under-6-year grade. During the summer I am involved in a men's cricket organisation as the executive officer, which includes overseeing and managing 58 teams. I run the local competition during the course of the season, and co-ordinate representative fixtures. I also collect and collate the results and submit them to the newspaper. I do all the secretarial and treasury work, and prepare an annual booklet of season statistics.

How did you get involved?

I am from a sporting background, as is my husband. But I have to confess, the only cricket I've actually played has been backyard stuff! My husband's involvement in cricket led to my interest in the sport. In 1986, I became the publicity officer for the Christchurch Suburban Cricket Association. My role there meant taking the results to write an article for the two local newspapers.

This was when our children were little and I was a stay-at-home mum. Saturday afternoons were often spent at the park watching Dad, so I thought: Why not take up the challenge? This also gave our two children a chance to develop an interest and participate in the game.

What have you learned?

Putting up your hand to do things can be very rewarding. You can receive a lot of satisfaction, as many people benefit from your efforts. Volunteers are always hard to find. From experience, I know that if you want a helping hand, it is usually best to ask a busy person.

I have also made some lasting friendships with many people from committees I have been involved with.

How does your work at MSD tie into your community work?

My job as community liaison with the Christchurch NZ Superannuation team requires me to network with external agencies. My outside-work involvement with community groups helps me build on my knowledge of the local community.

I also strongly believe that I have to be well-organised in everything I do. I am often juggling activities, but never at the expense of another. It is a matter of prioritising, and often working as part of a team. All of these are skills I have acquired while working in my job at Work and Income.