Volunteering and One Amazing Bucket List – An Interview with Eva McGauley

26 May 2017

Eva McGauley’s path to volunteering may look like it started when she walked through the doors at a Wellington Rape Crisis cupcake decorating and crafts fundraising event, but it was something that she sees as being inevitable.

Eva McGauley

“I grew up in a tight knit family with four people who served as my ‘co-parents’: my mum, my grandmother, my great-aunt and my godfather. All of whom are political, opinionated and feminist, so being a volunteer was something I was probably always destined to be. Choosing to focus my work on stopping sexual abuse and helping survivors was the result of many things starting with a happy accident.”

Eva had heard about the fundraiser through her school’s feminist club and by paying what she thought was an entry fee, she signed up to become a supporter of Wellington Rape Crisis. A month later, she attended the AGM with friends and made contact with the Agency Manager, asking how they could help.

“We went to her office the next week and I began working with them to make their website more youth-friendly and to encourage other high school students to get involved.”

Eva had another motivator for deciding to become a supporter of Wellington Rape Crisis; one which brought the reality of sexual abuse home.

“The other reason I chose to do this was because of how ridiculously prevalent sexual assault is in New Zealand, particularly in young people. One in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused before they turn 16 years. When I began to stop seeing that statistic as numbers and instead as friends, I became determined to do something about it.”

Eva has been vocal in raising awareness for young people’s need for 24/7 availability of counselling services.

“I think we need an online messaging service where you can chat anonymously with a trained specialist. This would provide a safe and confidential space where survivors and their support people have access to confidential judgement-free support, information about the laws and resources available to them in New Zealand and referrals for long term support in their local area.

In 2013, HELP: Auckland did a research project that aimed to identify the needs of youth survivors and to investigate what services they wanted. It was almost universally agreed by the participants that any form of online counselling would be useful with a particular emphasis on instant messaging. The idea of having a virtual “drop in centre” where they could talk to someone confidentially and anonymously was very appealing. Services like this exist overseas and have proved a great success and I think they will here too!”

Eva has faced her own health challenges over the previous couple of years and is living with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. When asked about her bucket list, she decided that what was most important to her was to create a better New Zealand. She established ‘EvasWish’, which aims to provide a platform for young people to become successful activists, and teach them how to actively campaign for something they believe in. She created a Givealittle page and has so far fundraised over $55,000 for HELP, the Auckland-based not-for profit working to end sexual abuse in New Zealand for good.

Eva was a well-deserved recipient of a Giving Back Award at the recent Minister for Youth’s New Zealand Youth Awards 2017 which took place at Parliament in April. This Award category is ‘for young people whose actions address a current need and have had a significant impact on their community.’ At only 17 years of age, it’s fair to say that this is definitely true of Eva: giving back seems to be what she does best.