Sandy – Former Board Member, Chairperson
Sandy got involved with CRS in the early 2000s. At that time, she was a funder at the Ministry of Health and was given CRS (not called CRS back then) as part of her portfolio. She recalls her first visit to find out more:
“I vividly remember being incredibly impressed with the strong women leading this organisation and their passion for the refugee community.”
Sandy continued to have a really positive and educational experience alongside the organisation, joining the Board once she left the Ministry. Having had some Board experience, she became the Board Chairperson.
Sandy worked closely with the General Manager to take the growing organisation into the next phase, trying out new ways of working and separating out governance and management. As she recalls: “Growing staff, a move, natural disasters were all thrown at us as well as a constant battle for funding. Robust discussions were held but with huge respect around the table.”
After about 10 years, Sandy left her Board role but stayed interested and connected to the work. She expresses great pride that CRS has attracted former refugees as well as migrants onto the Board, “something that was always an aim.”
Thinking back on her involvement, Sandy believes a highlight has been the privilege of getting to experience the lives and outlooks of refuge and migrant communities. She says, “The positive way in which they take on a challenge makes me just a little bit to understand what is like to stand in someone else’s shoes.” She recalls being very impressed at an evening for youth where they spoke of what it was like to be often the only English speaker in the family and then they did a short modelling show of what they see as the dress they would wear and see as being appropriate and normal for them. This event helped Sandy see just how many different communities there are in New Zealand. She also says she learned “a huge amount about generosity and patience”, as well governance, specifically how to support small NGOs.
“I loved all the staff celebrations, not just the amazing variety of food everyone would bring, but talking with and listening to the team and understanding the variety of work that was being done at CRS.”
In terms of challenges while working with CRS, Sandy identified funding; although “we needed such small amounts to make a huge difference, but it was always hard to get.” She also acknowledged a challenge in being a Kiwi as Board Chair for a refugee-focused organisation, but also recognised the privilege in doing this role.
As CRS marks its 30th anniversary, Sandy says, “I am just in awe of this incredible organisation, built up from a few people with a passion to an organisation that employs a vast range of skilled people across so many nationalities and so many services. To have kept going through many changes in government and government policy, natural disasters, the horrendous attacks on Muslims in Christchurch, a pandemic and more, is testament to the strength, relevance and value CRS has.”