Volunteering New Zealand – Sandra
You are interested in volunteering in nature conservation? In her field report, Sandra gives you an insight into her volunteering experience in New Zealand. Learn more
Volunteering in Punakaiki
Equipped with waterproof clothing, gardening gloves and sturdy boots in my backpack I was welcomed by our team leader Kurt on Friday evening at the bus station in Greymouth. Kurt then brought me to the volunteer house in Punakaiki. Punakaiki is a small community on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island between Westport and Greymouth. The community is situated at the edge of the Paparoa National Park. In the house I met nine other volunteers from different countries and together we ate one of the national dishes of New Zealand: Fish and Chips.
After getting to know each other on the weekend, our volunteer work started on Monday. We all prepared our lunch packages in the early morning and packed plenty of water to drink for the day.
Our project leader James greeted us at the Conservation Center and showed us around. Then we drove to a large area of farmland which was owned by the government and needed some more trees. The whole day we were busy planting trees (Manukas) in teams. Manukas are perfect for this rough, wet and windy region. They are pollinated by local bees and the Manuka honey is used as a natural remedy.
On the property we also spent our breaks outside, no matter if it was raining or not. Proper clothing was essential and rubber boots were given to us. We also received sunscreen and safety googles which we had to wear during the day due to safety reasons. 50+ sunscreen was used by us several times during the day because even on cloudy days the intensity of the sun is dangerous in New Zealand due to the hole in the Ozon layer above New Zealand.
For a whole week we planted trees in the farmland. In the evening we drove back to our accommodation, all tired, where we prepared our dinner together. Once a week a big trip to the shop for grocery shopping took place, but not before a plan for the menu was set up. This way we all got to taste different dishes form all over the world. The house was very basic, with bunk beds in the sleeping areas and two bathrooms, but we had to be careful with the hot water as it was only available until the boiler was empty.
On the weekend we had time to explore the areas (hiking in the Paparoa Park, canoe tips, etc.) and visited the near be sightseeing stations (Colony of sea lions in Westport), cleaning, washing and greeting new arrivals. Due to the small space and our different backgrounds and nationalities we grew very close as a group. We adapted to the living conditions, shared everything and enjoyed our company without a TV, talked a lot and played games. During the second week we worked at the conservation centre and had different jobs to do each day:
- Planting trees, shrubs, palm trees and flax along the coast
- Removal of weeks next to the freshly planted plants
- Collecting seeds from trees
For more than two weeks I could take part in a nature conservation project. A lot of manpower was asked from me, but the commitment of our volunteers with different nationalities and living together as a group in a small space in a remote location was fantastic. Living simply, taking care of each other, growing together as a team, testing limits. This all gave me so much positive energy, which I do not want to miss. I love nature and by taking part in this project I was able to contribute to the protection of this area on the west coast of New Zealand.
Due to the experiences I collected while I was in New Zealand I want to teach the children in our school that the nature we have is something valuable and therefore worth protecting.
Many kids, especially in cities, are mostly cut off from nature. Their living space is dominated by traffic, no-entry-signs and always-the-same-looking-playgrounds. Their life is often dominated by TV and computers. This is why teaching them about nature and our environment at our schools is so important.
Sandra D., Uzwil, April 2017
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