ISV International Student Volunteers—August 15-18
International Student Volunteers is a US based organisation which gives young people the opportunity to combine volunteering with adventure travel. ISV operates tours in eight countries, including New Zealand. A typical tour consists of two weeks of conservation projects followed by two weeks of adventure travel. The focus is on conservation and learning about environmental sustainability and over 140 universities recognize ISV projects for academic credit.
For four days this week we had a group of seven students helping out with a variety of projects at CUE Haven. The ISV team was led by Kelsey Bruns with the assistance of Dawn Gasparro of Conservation Volunteers NZ. The team was made up of Ariel and Conor from Canada, Keri from the US, Chris, Georgina and Lindsey from England and Christina from Scotland.
The team arrived on Monday afternoon and left on Thursday after lunch and in that time they planted almost 2,000 trees, cut gorse and repaired a 250 metre stretch of boundary fencing while also learning about New Zealand and a variety of conservation related topics. The team accomplished quite a bit considering that this week all of New Zealand was hit by the worst winter weather in 80 years. Auckland set a new temperature records (cold) and it snowed in downtown Auckland for the first time in 40 years. The team had to contend with cold temperatures, hail and gale force winds for the first two days of the week and even after the rain and wind stopped there was frost on the ground in the morning and a cool breeze.
Most of the field work involved planting trees and in addition to challenging weather, we were also working on difficult terrain—steep with some thorny blackberry stems which can make walking a real challenge.
On Tuesday afternoon, Conor, Chris, Dawn and Tom took a break from planting to attack a giant gorse bush.
In case you aren’t familiar with gorse, it is a mean and nasty bush which if not controlled can take over open ground in no time. You wear heavy duty gloves when you cut gorse because of the spiny leaves and stems. But that didn’t slow the group down too much and they made major progress in clearing the bush.
Wednesday morning, most of the team continued planting.
Chris and Conor joined Tom to shore up a stretch of boundary fence that needed maintenance. We hauled 20 fence battens plus hammers and staples up to the site and in a couple of hours made the fence substantially more cow proof.
In addition to their conservation work, each evening Kelsey led the team in educational exercises on topics related to their volunteer work. They had discussions on topics such as sustainable development, responsible tourism and protection of marine areas.
They also learned about New Zealand history and culture–and even flax weaving!
In their spare time, they also learned Highland dancing from Christina:
And how to braid hair Scotland style:
And Conor, with the assistance of Chris and Dawn, put together a jigsaw puzzle map of the world.
Here they are proudly pointing out where in the world they call home:
On Thursday before the group left Kelsey handed out awards to the team members for their efforts the past two weeks.
The ISV group has made a major contribution to CUE Haven in a variety of areas. They were a great group to work with and we sincerely appreciate their hard work and fun attitude.
Thanks for all your efforts. We look forward to seeing you all again!