Kat’s volunteering for others saves her sanity

Kat Clothes on Wheels 300x225 - Kat’s volunteering for others saves her sanityKat Reihana’s efforts to help others in the Tauranga community have saved her mental health – and she says could help many more.

Kat runs Kat’z Clothes on Wheels, a free clothing service for the homeless and those in need that she runs out of a van and a couple of storage sheds, all of it out of her own pocket. She says it’s volunteering that helps her get out of bed each day and overcome her own problems.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week from September 18 to 24, and SociaLink’s Volunteering Services is promoting volunteering as a way to boost mental health. Kat is a prime example of how volunteering for others can boost mental health.

She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from childhood abuse, and struggles with worsening health issues, including arthritis that frequently restricts movement. She says it’s in her nature to care for people – but that has got her in trouble and in jail in the past for helping the wrong people.

“Being in jail made me reflect about what I was putting my loved ones through, and I’m an action person so I wanted to do something so I don’t get into trouble. Actions mean so much more than words.”

When she came out of jail she was severely depressed, until a neighbour took her to Turning Point Trust, which provides opportunities for people with mental illness or addiction. There she saw unwanted clothing being sent to the dump.

“It’s heartbreaking when people need it, and within two weeks I’d talked them into dropping unwanted clothing off to me instead. She began to drop clothes off where they were needed most – first at Kai Aroha, and then began working from her own shed, with all costs for power and rent coming out of her own pocket.

“I go to Turning Point each week to collect, then sort the clothes, make sure they’re clean, not ripped or missing buttons. I put some on auction to pay for diesel and registration for the van and I now have two storage sheds to pay for.”

She would dearly love to have a decent warehouse complete with shelving and hangers, somewhere she could easily sort and clean the clothing.

“People deserve love and care, and some of these people don’t deserve to be where they are. Some lost jobs through Covid, some for not getting the jabs. I’ll help anyone, and it warms my heart to do this.”

She’s down at Under The Stars community meals for the homeless on Thursdays and Saturdays, and another charity on Fridays handing out clothing, and on other days she’s collecting and dropping off clothes.

She says it’s the volunteering that keeps her depression at bay.

“I really look forward to those days.”

Volunteering Services Manager Angela Wallace says volunteering is a great way to get active, make lifelong friendships and give back to the community.

“It’s a proven way to help address anxiety, loneliness and depression. We’re piloting a Social Prescription volunteering programme where health professionals can refer people to volunteering – we’ll help them find a role that suits their needs and support them to volunteer
their way to wellbeing.”

Find out more about volunteering at www.volunteeringservices.org.nz