Appreciating life as a volunteer



Arrowtown civil engineer Alex Holden grew up wanting to be a cop.

But his grandfather talked him out of it, encouraging him to follow in his footsteps and become a volunteer firefighter instead.

So, in 2013, he joined the Arrowtown brigade as a 16-year-old.







Five years later, he joined St John as a first responder, and has since qualified as an emergency medical technician — the highest level of clinical know-how a vollie can reach in
the organisation.

This week is National Volunteer Week, and even in a country with one of the highest volunteering rates in the world, the 24-year-old stands out as an example of the  volunteering spirit.

Holden says as a teenager he wasn’t much into going out and partying at weekends.

‘‘I was always hanging out for the pager to go off, or socialising at the fire station and waiting for the callout.’’

He thinks he’s not so unusual in the Whakatipu, knowing of at least six or seven volunteer firefighters who are also St John medics, and a couple of cops who are also firefighters.

For St John, he typically works three 12-hour shifts a month, as well as attending a couple of training nights in that time.

With the Arrowtown brigade, Holden spends one evening a week at the station for training, as well as going on any callouts.

Holden says he gets a deep sense of satisfaction from the roles, in which he’s dealing with people of all ages and backgrounds at what can be their lowest moments.

‘‘If it was me on the receiving end of that crisis, how would I like to be treated?

‘‘It feels nice to be able to help people.’’

The roles have also given him a wide range of technical and inter-personal skills, and a vast network of friends and contacts both within and outside the Whakatipu.