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Education in the wild

There is a difference between ‘out and about’ and Outward Bound — reporter Andrew Ashton finds out about how getting an outdoor education can not only be life-changing for participants of Outward Bound course but also lead to regional change . . .

A Gisborne business and a charitable trust have combined to help fund a potentially life-changing course aiming to make sure the region’s future leaders do not fall through the cracks.

Self-Storage Gisborne and the Clark Charitable Trust have set up an endowment fund that will, in the future, help fund 14 school children, who have been identified as potential leaders, to attend the Outward Bound programme.

Self-storage Gisborne director Peter Jex-Blake said the “aspirational” goal was to be able to build the fund up so it could continuously provide $60,000 each year.

“The deal is, that as a community, we raise just as much as we can, and provided we are somewhere close to the mark, we can get funds from elsewhere to make sure it happens.

“These courses are not the off-the-shelf ones. What Outward Bound has done is talk to various regions throughout the country and tailored school courses to meet the needs of each region,” he said.

Mr Jex-Blake said the value of Outward Bound was driven home after his self-storage facility manager Polly Taukamo attended an adult Outward Bound course.

“Having sent Polly away earlier this year to a Women in Leadership course with Outward Bound, she came back fizzing and said what a wonderful thing it was to do. I asked Polly how can we get more people on to it?”

'It's about realising your potential'Outward Bound them made him aware of an initiative that involved sending a “Watch” of young people, Year 12 students, on to a course if funds could be raised.

“It was a pretty worthwhile cause. So, we went to Sunrise Foundation and they got in touch with the Clark Charitable Trust, and they got on board. So, we have put in some seed funding, whereby we have funding for two students to go away.”

Over 21 days, it is hoped students will challenge their beliefs and themselves through a variety of activities held at the school in Anakiwa and its surrounds in the Queen Charlotte Sound.

Both Self-storage Gisborne and the Clark Charitable Trust have provided $5000 each.

“The challenge now is to get other businesses or individuals or charitable trusts on board to fund the rest.”

The hope would be to build an endowment fund, looked after by the Sunrise Foundation, which would fund more students and keep growing each year after.

“As more donors become involved it will become self-funding eventually.

“With the social needs this region has, we just thought if we can reach children before they leave school and join gangs etcetera.

“This is an opportunity to turn young kids into role models. The good thing about it is Outward Bound actually works with the schools to choose the kids. They will be kids who don’t have the resources to attend something like this.

“They could also be under-achievers at school but identified by schools as having potential to become leaders at that school. Then, when they leave school they could go on to be leaders in their community or in their workplace.”

Facility manager Polly Taukamo said she could not recommend Outward Bound enough.

“You are put in a situation where you only have yourself to rely on. It’s about realising your potential and stepping outside those boundaries that you don’t realise you have. That was continuous throughout the whole course. You come out feeling like you can achieve anything — it’s an incredible experience.”

Working with other participants also taught the value of teamwork, she said.

“Those groups are all one big team.”

The Women in Leadership course she attended was a five-day course at Queen Charlotte Sound, and involved being dropped off in the bush alone for 12 hours.

“That was my favourite thing actually. You were left and just had a canvas to make a shelter.”

On top of that there was hiking, kayaking, swimming and camping activities in the wilderness.

“I have more confidence now to communicate with people and that has helped with our customers and clients.”

Outward Bound has been transforming lives of New Zealanders since 1962, with more than 65,000 young Kiwis attending courses designed to help them to reach their full potential through challenge in the outdoors.

Outward Bound will call the annual course Tairawhiti.

“The regional schools programme helps teens to build courage and resilience, and experience success as a member of a team,” Outward Bound school director Simon Graney said.

“They also learn to identify their own values, develop an appreciation for the natural environment and experience being of service. Outward Bound would be thrilled to deliver a programme like this for Poverty Bay young people.”

The Tairawhiti Outward Bound course that the endowment fund hoped to fund would be a three-week course.

Anyone interested in helping donate to the fund should contact Glenda Stokes at the Sunrise Foundation.?

Polly Taukamo on an Outward Bound course at Queen Charlotte Sound. Picture supplied
Self-storage Gisborne director Peter Jex-Blake with facility manager Polly Taukamo. Picture by Liam Clayton