Bearded Michael found his true calling.
The Open Lab team were lucky enough to set out for a day of volunteering on Matiu/Somes Island with a group of other CoCA alumni.
The trip began with a rocky yet slow ferry ride to the island where we were greeted by an array of birds and the Island Ranger Jeff. The Island itself is a historic and scenic reserve with a colourful history owned by local iwi Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoku o Te Ika. The island has been predator-free since 1989 and hopes to stay this way in future.
Before entering the Island we were secured in a room to check for any sneaky pests or plant matter that might have made the trip over. After looking around the visitor centre and making ourselves familiar with the flushing toilets we were split into groups. Most of us were put to use clearing the road gutters and the path drainage systems. The remaining group were left to clean the sheep shed which I'm glad wasnt me as it was literally scraping sheep shit off the walls. During our gutter cleaning, we became well established with the local spiders, weta, geckos and skinks – a bit different from our daily office lives. After the shovelling and shit scraping, it was time for a much-needed lunch.
We grabbed our lunch and set off to find the sun and one of the many picnic tables by the Island's only Lighthouse. Here we found a tremendous view, a weta motel and a very friendly blackbird.
Once the wind had set in and our new friend had flown away we knew it was time to get back into it. While the others finished off the gutters and sheep shed we continued to shift a very large pile of firewood from the edge of a historic building and into the rangers shed (lucky him).
The hardworking Ranger, Jeff, lives on the Island with his wife and three younger children who are all homeschooled and don't know much different from the Island life. I couldn't think of a better childhood, growing up with the island to yourself, blue penguins as friends and sheep as companions. Another Ranger also lives on the Island with his wife and new-born baby.
Mahi was done for the day and it was time to explore the Island. Once Michael had found every Pokemon on the Island we decided to walk up the steepest hill to find not only the most relaxed sheep ever but numerous historic war barracks. We then ventured to a lookout on the edge of a cliff and the local lighthouse. Numerous Little Blue penguin/Kororā and other birds were nesting at the time so we were very careful not to disturb them.
Once we were back on the ferry it was time to look back and reflect on the amazing opportunity we had been given, being welcomed onto the Island and to be able to wear Jeff’s boots for the day. Not only was the experience beautiful, educational and exciting it was also good to give back and to be outdoors. The fact that we got to spend an entire day away from our computers and working with our hands was really special. The whole team came back to work feeling refreshed, energised and fulfilled. I highly recommend to all businesses to check out Volunteer Wellington and squish some team building into some physical labour while helping out your local community.
Thanks for having us Jeff, it was a blast!