A dedicated volunteer at Ryman’s Bob Owens village in Tauranga has won the 2021 Cashin Scholarship.
Lauren Scullin, 18, is off to Canterbury University to study speech and language pathology and hopes one day to help people with communication challenges.
The $5000 scholarship will have a big impact on her and her family after a tough year, she said.
“It will make a huge difference to my studies as it’s a long way to go to Christchurch from Tauranga.
“And my parents have also needed to provide financial support over many months for both of my brothers who lost their jobs,” says Lauren, who is the youngest in the family.
“I’m so grateful to the Cashin family and the Ryman community for considering me a worthy winner.”
Lauren’s hard working ethic and dedication to service made her a strong contender for the award, having volunteered at Bob Owens for four years and for charity Recreate NZ, which supports families who have a child with disabilities, since August 2019.
“I think it’s important to find time for service, not just for the people I’m doing a service for, but for myself as it makes me feel humble and it gives me great satisfaction,” says Lauren, an honours student in her academic subjects as well as high achieving in Speech and Drama, piano and singing.
It was through her mum Catherine, who works as a receptionist at Bob Owens, that Lauren first had the idea to volunteer at the village four years ago.
Using her musical talents, Lauren would play the piano for residents in the care centre and then she started singing for both them and the residents in the rest of the village too.
But it was her relationship with Bob Owens resident Shirley MacDonald that formed a really special connection.
What started out as an act of service every Saturday morning for her Duke of Edinburgh Award where Lauren would read to Shirley, who is blind, has continued to this day.
“Even during the lockdown I would call her on the phone and read to her and I will carry on when I’m down in Christchurch,” says Lauren.
“She’s a really inspiring person and we have a strong connection and friendship now.
“It made my connection with Bob Owens and Ryman much stronger by going to see her every week and it was really because of her that I applied for the scholarship.”
Having done speech and drama since she was six-years-old, achieving Grade 8 with Honours Plus results, plus working with older people and children with disabilities, Lauren knows only too well how valuable the ability to communicate is for people.
“Working with elderly people who can’t always communicate as they used to, along with my experience at Recreate, has allowed me to see both the joy that comes from being understood as well as the frustration that can come from misunderstanding.
“I aspire to have a career which enables me to use the latest technologies and methods to help other people find their voice, be it through autism or from having a stroke or another disability.”
Village Manager Brian Bark was thrilled to hear that Lauren had won.
“Lauren is kind and respectful and her reading, singing and piano playing have brought great joy to our residents. I could not think of a more deserving person to win.”
The Cashin Scholarship was set up in memory of former Ryman Healthcare director Mike Cashin, who passed away in 2010.
Mike cared passionately about education, and the Cashin family decide on the winner each year.
Ryman Chief Executive Gordon MacLeod said there were 91 entries this year and it was always a tough job to pick out a winner.
Gordon said: “The family were really impressed with Lauren’s application and all agreed that she was a very worthy recipient.”