By LOUISE LEITCH
Volunteering is a way of life for Norman Maindonald.
He has dedicated more than 40 years of service to the community in Christchurch, and more recently, North Canterbury.
The Rangiora resident, who volunteers with Community Wellbeing North Canterbury Trust as a Restorative Justice panellist, says volunteering gives him a satisfaction that nothing else does.
A self-professed jack of all trades, master of none, Norman held various jobs in Christchurch, including a role as manager at Smiths City, before becoming South Island sales representative for Masport.
“I was happily married, with two children. I had a great job but I was too comfortable, says Norman.
“My prayer was, if I can do something more productive, let me know.”
Norman believes his prayer was answered when a serious car accident in 1984 left him with a fractured skull and unable to resume his job. Once he had recovered sufficiently he poured himself into prison ministry, a voluntary role he had begun while employed fulltime.
When Norman began working with men at Rolleston Prison, some 41 years ago, his wife Shirley, while supportive of her husband’s decision, stated categorically that she did not want to be involved.
“But three years later, she was more involved in the ministry than I was,” says Norman.
The couple took prison inmates into their home for what was known as 72 hour parole, part of a programme to help prisoners nearing their time for release to transition successfully back into society.
“They were often men from the North Island without any whanau locally to support them, says Norman. We would feed them, talk with them. Shirley and I must have had dozens of prisoners through our home.”
Norman grew up in Kurow, North Otago and describes his parents as straight up and down good people.
“I was brought up to abide by the rules because I had parents who cared for me, loved me, but not everyone’s so fortunate,” says Norman.
“I get tremendous satisfaction from helping someone who has been in a heap of trouble to turn their life around and have hope for the future.”
It was Norman’s work with offenders that in 2003, led Deirdre Ryan, now manager of Community Wellbeing North Canterbury Trust, to invite Norman to join a pilot Restorative Justice service, that was being developed in North Canterbury by Safer Communities Council with the help of Rangiora Police.
A founding Restorative Justice North Canterbury panellist, Norman is now approaching 18 years as a volunteer with what was named the Turnaround Programme, now known as the North Canterbury Police Diversions Panel.
Restorative Justice North Canterbury, run by Community Wellbeing North Canterbury Trust, provides an opportunity for victims to talk to offenders and say how their lives have been affected by the offenders’ actions. Participation is voluntary, in a facilitated conversation between offender and victim.
“Victims can be reluctant to take part in a restorative justice conference initially,” says Norman, “but afterwards they often say it was the best thing that could have happened.”
Losing Shirley seven years ago, after 50 years of marriage, has been difficult, but Norman remains as passionate about helping people as the day he began his voluntary service.
“Life isn’t about being a big shot. Being the wealthiest, most influential person around doesn’t mean a thing, that’s just egotism”, says Norman.
“We’re here to help others and if I can do something to genuinely help someone else, why wouldn’t I?”.