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Making change through connection

Ruatoria teenager Rakaunui Te Puni came home from his second participation in the Oceans Environmental Youth Leadership Empowerment Camp in the US, convinced the youth of the world can make change.

The 16-year-old was one of three Maori young people to take part in the camp. The others came from Cambridge and Northland.

The three represented the indigenous youth of Aotearoa at the Empowerment Action and Leadership Camp in northern California.

“I have been a part of many other environmental development projects and events such as POPS — Plastic Ocean Pollution Solution — a global youth summit in America,” Rakaunui said.

He also attended SEAL 2018 and 2019, a youth camp looking towards empowering action and leadership.

“These events inspired me to do more, and to make changes,” he said.

“The camps have been a life-changing experience.

“At the most recent camp I learned so much about environmental development, empowering action, and leadership. It was spectacular to learn about empathy and connection.

“I realised that connection, connecting with people, is really powerful,” he said.

“At camp they confiscated our phones so we could socialise better with the other youth, so we could concentrate, connect and work together.

“If you find your connection with others and with the ocean you will have the courage and determination to help, and make change,” Rakaunui said.

“From my personal view about the camp I do believe we, the youth, can make change with the environment.”

The camp was staged by Heirs To Our Oceans, a non-profit organisation and empowerment learning programme with a vision of saving the oceans, waterways and humanity.

It hosts the SEAL — Summit for Empowerment Action and Leadership — camp each northern summer.

SEASONED TRAVELLER: Rakaunui Te Puni has returned from his second time at an environmental youth leadership camp in the US. The camps have been life-changing, he says. Picture supplied