Lena’s Outdoor Camp Experience in New Zealand

Posted on the 13th July 2020

We interviewed Lena and she shared her recent wonderful experience volunteering as a Outdoor Camp Assistant at Bridge Valley Adventure Centre during her Gap Year in the New Zealand.

Thank you so much, Lena, for detailing what your placement was like and how it impacted you as you look ahead to your future travels and pursuing photography.  We are so excited for you!

Why did you choose to volunteer in New Zealand?

As I was just finishing high school I wanted to see more of the world as I think most teens do after high school. But I wanted to travel with a purpose. Instead of just seeing a different country, I wanted to experience it. I decided to volunteer in New Zealand because it is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit plus it’s absolutely beautiful. It was between that and Australia but I hate snakes so my decision was kind of made for me! Haha.

Tell us a little about your placement and what a typical day looks like.

When we first arrived, as a group we explored Christchurch. We fed the eels sausages in the Avon River that runs through the centre of the city, got to do some zip-lining and high ropes but really the best part was getting to know the group of volunteers and become a little family.

There were two types of typical days. Since I worked at an Adventure camp we’d have Camps during school holidays and just regular school camp when school was on.

On a day with a school camp on site, I would either work a breakfast shift or dinner. I would put out the meal, refill things and just be around. In the morning the staff team would have a meeting and talk about what was happening that day.

I would usually be running activities all day such as rock climbing, the flying fox, or the high ropes course. I got to know tons of students and teachers which was a lot of fun.

During holiday camps I would be in a cabin leading a group of 7 to 9 girls between the ages of 7 and 14, which I loved! A lot of holiday camps would consist of a leaders meeting in the morning before breakfast then making sure my cabin was up and getting ready for breakfast. A quick line up before heading in and eating. After that we’d clean up the cabin before heading to Main Stage to sing and dance to some songs and listen to a message (I worked at a Christian camp). Before lunch I’d have a big camp wide game, which was always tons of fun. I would usually run activities after lunch until dinner time. We’d have another main stage then off to bed. And those are some normal days 🙂

I stayed in the camp staff house where the staff that would stay on site. There were 3-4 of us and we’d usually make and eat dinner together. During the summer, we’d take house trips to the river. They showed me around the area which was a great time with a great group of people.

Everyone was so nice and welcoming. As someone who didn’t know anyone when I arrived, this was an was amazing thing. Everyone really made me feel at home which made my experience so much more enjoyable.

What are some of the big differences between where you volunteered and where you call home?

A really nice thing about volunteering in New Zealand is it is a lot like Canada, where I am from. The landscape is a little different though–the hills are more defined. Driving on the other side of the road definitely took a lot of getting used to.

Since I went to New Zealand there wasn’t a language barrier but I noticed there’s different words and slang that I had to get used to and have definitely picked up.

Tell us about the travels you got to do during and after your placement?

I didn’t travel as much as I planned because my big plan was to travel a bit after my placement. Sadly COVID-19 ended my placement 2 months early, and cut my travel plans out too. But I did get to travel a bit during my Christmas holidays. I went to Christchurch with some of the other volunteers from my group, then took the bus all the way down to Queenstown which was very cool because I got to see a lot of the South Island. I traveled a lot around the Nelson area, where I was placed, which is absolutely gorgeous.

What positive impact, even small, do you think you made?

I hope that I at least helped the kids that came to camp have a good week and forget about any tough things happening at home. I hope I made them feel loved and appreciated. I hope I created a positive outlook for the staff and leaders because I always had a smile and wanted to make everyone feel appreciated.

Really any moment I got to work with kids on activities was amazing. I got to know so many of them and made friends with a lot of them. I love making those kinds of connections with kids, getting know their names, a bit of their stories. It was so much fun.

Can you give examples of any personal development you may have gained as a result of your volunteering or living away from home?

I have always disliked talking to big groups, but working at Bridge, part of my role was running activities. This meant I’d have to explain the over all rules and how to do the activity. At the beginning of my placement I didn’t want to do dinner shifts because that meant explaining how meal time worked to a group of 20-100 people. But I got to a point where I was confident enough to finally do it.

I think overall my confidence has really grown in being able to talk to people, in large groups even, and to meet new people. That makes me very happy.

Finally, what are you planning on doing next, and has your Lattitude experience helped or influenced your path in any way?

I’m not too sure how this year is going to look with everything going on but after coming back from New Zealand, I have had a lot of time to think about where I want to go in my life. I know I want to work with kids because I always have so much fun and it’s just such a great environment to grow yourself. My goal is to travel more especially because COVID-19 ended my travels in New Zealand early.  I have always wanted to be a photographer too, so maybe there’s something I can do that involves all three things. But we’ll see where the world takes me!

Learn More About Our New Zealand Programme

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