For the last 6 weeks, at least I think it’s been that long or that short, I have been engaged in my new role as youth services assistant on the Island for the non-profit organization Aotea Family Support Group. The AFSG is a charitable trust in service for the Island community, delivering assistance of all kinds to all (here is a link to a list of services). In essence, the intention is to give every island resident the opportunity to live healthy, fulfilling, independent lives and to fully participate in the community. While I simply cannot give an exhaustive description of the ‘social life’ on the island (a request from Michael), I think I can at least say that the AFSG is one amongst a few of non-profit organizations here on the island who passionately work towards increasing the ‘social-life’ and/or making it more available for all. These take forms in terms of providing continuing education, aiding the elderly (with technology), social gatherings, home help, budgeting, counselling etc.
I can only commend those who had the idea and were able to follow through with it as well and those who have worked passionately over the years towards further establishing a greater well-being for Island residents. Isn’t it great that there are such organizations and also volunteers, who help, for instance, the elderly to be able to continue living on the Island in spite of often not being able to perform all those physical tasks which are part of the off-grid life? I’m thinking of basic things such as free fire wood delivered, transport or regular meetings such as having a shared meal together once a month.
In my role, I work together with my manager to provide opportunities for the Island youth to come together and take part in group on-island and off-island activities and basically to assist them in all youth matters via the AFSG and other professional youth services.
As you can perhaps imagine, it can be quite difficult for youth to engage with each other, unless they live in close vicinity. Without any public transport they just can’t go and visit their mates or actually make mates as easily as on the main land. Another important point to make is that riding the bicycle to visit friends – something that is only natural in many cities – is simply not an option, unless you’re into extreme up and downhill riding.
Further, there just aren’t many youths on the island, mainly due to the absence of secondary schools. Some parents cannot afford to send their kid(s) to boarding school in town, so there are always a few youths who are home-schooled via what is called correspondence schooling. These youths find it extremely difficult to mix with other youths in their age.
I am in part responsible for organizing weekly meetings for the island youth (called youth group) and also what is called the School Holiday Programme. The latter takes place during the school holidays, where all kids can participate in various activities. It’s not only for the kids though, this is also a time where parents can find the time to do the chores or simply relax, with their kids being safe and playing with others.
We’ve just finished a two week, more or less full on, SHP programme, with fun activities from all walks of life. Such as: adventure hikes, learning about music, being creative and making a pieces of art, baking bread, juggling, watching movies, playing golf and also ‘playing with science’.
Last Friday, we had a group of 9 kids, 2 volunteers and myself running a 3 hour session called ‘Play with Science’. Most of our experiments were based on the concept of pressure (differences). We made little bombs in plastic bags and rockets, one of them gaining so quickly 10 vertical meters that none of us were able to look up that fast. We mixed food colouring in milk and observed how the colours actively dispersed through it after a few drops of detergent were added to the mix. The ‘inverted balloon’ seemed to be just as exciting as the rockets.
We placed a balloon on a flask containing water. Upon heating the water, the balloon filled up with steam and upon cooling it deflated first, then was sucked into the flask inflating inside the flask due to the pressure difference inside and outside of the flask.
I’m sincerely enjoying my new job. The kids are great and are more reliable than many adults I know, they also have more meaningful things to say, time flies by quickly since they happily engage with each other doing the things and talking about the things that are exciting at that period of life. In addition, I get to meet many folks all over the Island and get to travel all over the place as well, since I drive the bus to pick up and drop off kids.
I’m learning a lot from those little buggers as well, little tricks that will also work psychologically with adults. I kind of see this experience as yet another form of engaging with things that one doesn’t know or never took the time to care about.
The other day we were driving to the Kawa Marae and at some stage all of us adults realised that we did not know where it actually was. We came across a ‘Recommended 4×4 only’ sign, the gravel road we were on would have ended at a bay unknown to me. I was slightly anxious that following the road might get us into a situation getting stuck with the van. Moreover, since we weren’t sure if it even was the correct road to the Marae, we had a little problem.
With no cell phone coverage to call and ask for directions and no one else around to ask, I decided to do what I’ve been learning more and more. Just ask the people around you. I have to say that I’m usually very reluctant asking people, since it is nothing but a waste of time mostly. People can’t listen and can’t stop bragging about their pseudo-knowledge. You ask a simple question and you either get put on the wrong track because someone’s ego is so large, he/she cannot just say:”Hmm, I don’t know.” Or just as bad they start telling you a story about the dinosaurs and continue in a monologue-type fashion giving you lots and lots of information that you didn’t ask for.
So what I’m learning is to ask nonetheless, but stop people immediately when their help is not useful. It is funny to see how people react when you say: “Wait, that’s not what I’m asking… You’re not answering my question… Okay, stop telling me what I know, try telling me what I don’t know…” And of course the classic, “okay I can assume many things too, I was under the impression you knew some facts…”
Anyway, back to the story. I decided to ask the kids. A 5 year old boy was adamant he’s been to that Marae. So I asked him whether it is right by the water. The answer was yes. Obviously I realised that being on an island some will say that anything is right by the water, so asked if it is next to the beach. The answer was yes. Then I asked what sort of stuff lied on that beach.
The answer was amazing. “It’s a short, rocky beach, there are a few shipwrecks, lots of bunnies and cows.” I put 1 and 1 together, the bay will have some flat land and a stream running into the ocean, so there could be stock. Surely, a 5 year old boy will remember shipwrecks better than lets say the colour of the Marae’s roof, and if he says that it is next to the beach, the odds were quite high of being on the right road. We followed it and ended up 5 minutes later at the Marae, with the boy pointing out the cows, bunnies shipwrecks etc. as we passed them…