Sasindu Anjula (“Sas”) Don Simon Patabendi, an Engineering student of Ara Institute of Canterbury, is proud to say that he can see the physical impacts of his volunteer work in Christchurch.
“Last year for the Christchurch Youth Council I helped to develop an exciting space for the city, in collaboration with Gap Filler, and Regenerate Christchurch. You can see the basketball hoop and the giant spray cans at the end of Lichfield Street and Manchester Street. The installation is going to be there for two years which is really awesome.”
During the national election last year Sas was also given leadership of the Civics focus group and assisted with the organisation of events for youth voters such as “Connecting before Electing.”
Sri Lankan-born Sas came to Ara three years ago to study the Bachelor of Engineering Technology. As an international student finding his way in a new city, which was still in a post-earthquake recovery phase, Sas made sure to take full advantage of opportunities to form new connections.
“When I first came to New Zealand I found it really hard to make friends, but once I got out and started talking to people it was easy. I used to be an introvert, but now I’m kind of an extrovert.”
Twenty-five year old Sas now has an impressive list of volunteering positions to add to his résumé. Alongside his role as a member of the General Executive for the Christchurch Youth Council in 2017, Sas has fulfilled roles as an International Student Representative for the Ara Student Council, and is now the Student Representative for Engineering.
Known as a bright, hardworking student, the Head of Department handpicked Sas to be Engineering Student Representative.
“I got called up and asked me to fill the Student Rep position, so now I’m representing my classmates at the Engineering New Zealand, Canterbury Committee meetings each month. I love it because it’s study-related, and I get to meet a lot of industry people.”
Lynda Clegg from the Ara Careers Centre believes students can find great value in volunteering.
“Volunteering offers a range of opportunities for students including; building on their employability skills, gaining experience in an area of interest, contributing to the community and enhancing their CV,” Clegg says.
To support students to explore volunteering opportunities Ara organised a Student Volunteer Expo for Wednesday 21 March, to give students the chance to connect with a variety of Volunteer Agencies including Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army and SPCA.
Sas has found that volunteering “is great for networking”, especially now that he is a third year student and considering his future career options.
“It’s been good for developing my communication skills, and public speaking. Currently I’m doing my final year project on recycled concrete but I’ve also talked to the City Council to see if there’s any research they want me to do for them. It’s good to do industry projects so if I hear back then I might do that instead.”
As for what Sas would like to do the future? Volunteering is still on the cards.
“I’m not actively involved in Engineers without Borders at the moment but I would like to do that. I’d love the opportunity to go to the Pacific Islands and use the knowledge I’ve learned so far to help build structures, and give back to those communities – that’s something I’d really like to do.”