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Volunteering for Oxfam Trailwalker is a unique experience; it’s fun, exciting, emotional, and rewarding.
As a volunteer, you get to support people to take on perhaps one of the greatest challenges of their lives, while at the same time helping people across the Pacific to overcome poverty. To put it simply, as a volunteer you are part of something BIG.
Over 1000 people will be doing the walk this year, aiming to raise close to $1 million for the work that Oxfam New Zealand and our partners do in the Pacific region. The outcome of this event can make a difference to people’s lives in Aotearoa and beyond. We could simply not do this without the help of our amazing volunteers. Join us!
Things you need to know:
The 2020 event will take place in Whakatāne, on 21-22 March, 2020.
You can sign up for as many – or as few – volunteer shifts as you like. Even taking on one shift is a big help, and a great way to be part of the event.Sign up to volunteer at Oxfam Trailwalker
You choose your shift(s). All the available roles and shifts are published in the online registration form. You can view the different positions and shifts that need to be filled throughout the weekend and pick the one that works with your schedule and skills – or whichever you think will be the most fun to do. Most shifts are 4-6 hours long.
You don’t need to be super fit or strong – anyone can be a volunteer. If you’re keen, there will be a role for you, however you want to help out.
Are you bubbly and excited? Consider being a Finish Line Host, presenting medals and giving the occasional sweaty hug to the walkers that have finally completed their journey.
Friendly, always with a smile, and patient? Be a Trail Marshal and be the face that tired teams see after many kilometres of sand dunes, stop-banks and hilly forests. You’ll give them that extra spring in their step, while also making sure they cross the road safely.
Want to literally give a helping hand? Grab that Jet Boat shift and help people up from the shortest jet boat ride of their lives. Love driving? Help with the logistics of the event and be a Courier. Read more about the different roles on our website or directly in the online registration form.
The most interesting ones are the graveyard shifts. According to the team average times, many of them are expected to finish their journey very late on Saturday or in the early hours of Sunday. Though this is not a time most of us are used to being awake and functional, it’s exactly why the presence of volunteers along the trail is valued even more by our amazing Trailwalkers.
Whakatāne is GORGEOUS! Totally worth a weekend away and reasonably close to most major cities in the North Island. Sunshine more often than not (oops, hope we haven’t jinxed it), stunning scenery and native bush, the beautiful Ōhope beach nearby and the most welcoming people. During the event weekend, the whole area gets transformed into “Trailwalker town” and the vibe is just incredible.I'm in - sign me up!
If you’re still thinking about it, read the following quotes from the 2019 volunteers, about why they signed up to help at Oxfam Trailwalker:
· “I’m a local and want to share our amazing place with others.”
· “I have been a walker twice and needed a year off, really wanted to give back to the event and share my experience.”
· “I have grown up very community centred. I help at the local holiday programmes and primary schools of West Auckland to increase the learning opportunities for the children of our future. This will be an exciting opportunity and I would like to step out into the wider community to aid the walkers in achieving their goals with Oxfam. I am very passionate about being active and would maybe like to participate in the trail myself one day.”
· “I love encouraging people for their achievements! And making people feel so good on the inside about the amazing progress they choose to do for others and also themselves, plus I get excited over the smallest things so easily 😀 I have always heard about this from many of my friends in Australia and I finally get a chance to be a part of something that’s not just life changing but also plays a huge part in fighting poverty.”
· “I heard Oxfam Trailwalker is the only team challenge charity event in NZ to raise funds to end the injustices of poverty in the Pacific region. I think it will be a life-changing adventure and it would be meaningful if I could participate and be of help to someone.”
Head over to our website for more information on volunteering for Oxfam Trailwalker or get in touch! Olga, our lovely Volunteer Coordinator, can be reached at email@example.com and is happy to answer your questions.
See you in Whakatāne?
A Kiwi sharing skills in Timor-Leste
Lou Bird, a Kiwi ex-farmer and a Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) volunteer, is working together with Timorese farmers and their families to improve nutrition, yields and income generation.
Oxfam’s project in Timor-Leste focuses on supporting Timorese farmers to become self-reliant and to thrive. Working through local partners, Oxfam delivers tools, training and advice so they can boost their income and secure a steady supply of food.
“My role is working with the local NGOs that deliver the project at the grassroots level. That suits me down to the ground, because it’s hands on and I’m interacting with farmers,” says Lou.
“There’s something about farmers worldwide that whenever farmers get together, they always have something talk about – climate, soils, pests, nature…”
One of the initiatives Lou has helped deliver alongside Oxfam involves a new candlenut shelling machine, which saves women the laborious task of cracking the nuts one by one.
“Deshelling candlenuts is hugely time consuming. It’s typically women’s work. A sack of candlenuts in the shell would typically take one person a day and a half to shell. One by one, on a rock,” he says.
“One and a half day’s work for one person can now be completed in 10 minutes. The women are thrilled. It’s a radical transformation and potential for that crop.”
Lou has also used his expertise to help farmers grow nutritious crops that can be easily stored and eaten during the low season: “We’ve been promoting the growth of dry bean species – mung beans, soy beans, red beans – and peanuts, onion species, shallots, that in the right conditions can be stored for a very long time.”
These new crops help tide families over through the hungry months, when cassava – a filling but nutrient-poor staple – would usually be the primary component of their diet.
“When people have got good nutrition and adequate food and things, then you’re stronger and you can accept more challenges.”
Decades of experience as a farmer in New Zealand has given Lou a special insight into the many challenges of small-scale agriculture, but also how rewarding it can be.
“One of the big things I have in common [with local farmers] is understanding cycles… understanding risk from a farmer’s perspective, because the buck stops at the farmer. Farmers are at the very bottom of every value chain within the food complex.
“The other element is that I recognise the ability of the farmers. They are good farmers. They have been successfully growing food crops for hundreds, thousands of years – I don’t know how long.
“And it’s really satisfying for me to be able to turn to these farmers, and say to them, ‘Well, you know how to grow food. You’re good farmers. So where is it you want me to give you some support and help, and we can talk about things?’”
The impact on rural Timorese communities has been deep and widespread. Thanks to the generous donations backing Lou’s work, many small-scale Timorese farmers have been given the support they need to feed their families nutritious food all year round.
The IMPACT project is co-funded by Oxfam New Zealand’s generous donors and the New Zealand Aid Programme. Lou is on a VSA assignment with Oxfam in Timor-Leste.
To support Oxfam’s work in Timor-Leste and around the world, visit www.oxfam.org.nz/donate.
Edgecumbe local Kate Casey (and third time Oxfam Trailwalker participant) lost her home and most of her possessions when a breach in the Rangitāiki river stop bank unleashed a wall of water on the small community. To keep her spirits up, Casey decided to take on the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker in 2018 after completing the 50km with her sister before the flood. “We went through a lot, and putting my all into training helped me immensely. It helped me to stay positive on down days when I didn’t really want to go for a walk, but then I would and I’d feel better.”
This year Casey will be doing the 100km for the third time, with her current team Quads of Fury, who are all based in Whakatāne. Completing the 100k trail is no small feat, but the same will and perseverance that got Casey through the devastation from the flood helps keep her going when training gets hard. “I keep walking even when I’m sore, because I’m too determined not to finish. I don’t like to give up.” The Quads of Fury ladies have a unique way to motivate each other to keep going while on the track. “One funny thing our team does is that we sing a version of 99 bottles, but instead it is how many kilometres we have walked.”
Oxfam Trailwalker is being held in the Bay of Plenty region for the fifth and final time – for now. It features 100 kilometres of trail through Whakatāne, Ōhope and Edgecumbe on a track that sees participants walking along coastal tracks, sandy beaches, farmland and native bush. Seeing the 2017 event kick off in Edgecumbe meant a lot to Casey after everything the community has been through. “It was really neat seeing a lot of the locals around the Whakatāne walkways cheering us on. That was awesome. Last year the event started one street over from where my house was in Edgecumbe. We had a laugh that I could have rolled out of bed late and still made it!”
Despite the obstacles she has faced on and off the track, Casey has been able to successfully complete the track each year, proving hard work truly pays off. “This experience has been amazing, it’s shown me that I can achieve whatever I put my mind to. Despite everything going on, I did it, and my kids saw me do it.”
Oxfam Trailwalker has now become a family event for the Caseys. This year, Kate’s sister will be doing the 50km event with her mum, niece and eldest son in their own team. “Everyone in my family has had their high points and low points, and Trailwalker has helped us to support each other through tough times.”
Late last year, Kate and her family embarked on a year-long trip around the South Island. “With everything that happened, we made a big decision to give up work, sell up, and buy a caravan. We just needed a change to help us heal after everything we’ve been through. But we’ll be back in March for the walk.” Quads of Fury plan to stay connected despite the distance until they are reunited in March for the big event.“We had tears when I said goodbye the other day. We’re planning on video-chatting while we train, so that we’re still walking together.”
Casey firmly believes that anyone can participate in Oxfam Trailwalker, and highly recommends the event to anyone looking to give it a go. “It is the experience of a lifetime. I’ve been able to do something to help myself. I have built life-long friendships, we’ve done something together that is so memorable and will never forget, but also you are helping a great cause. It’s a win-win. If you think you can’t do it, just try.”
Entries for Oxfam Trailwalker close on 31 January, 2020. The event is being held on 21-22 March, 2020 – in the scenic Bay of Plenty region. Find out more here
Christine Nurminen, left, with members of Oxfam’s local partner Touching the Untouchables (TTU) and OiPNG team. Henganofi district, Highlands PNG FLOW project, September 2019.
Challenging the international development sector
The recently established Māori and Pacific thought-leadership group Pacific Koloa Collective is the first of its kind for the international development sector in New Zealand. Chairing the unique group is former Pasifika Education Centre (PEC) Chief Executive Christine Nurminen, who towards the end of last year, left PEC to start a new journey as the International Portfolio Manager (Pacific) at Oxfam New Zealand.
When Christine, a former Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) employee, initially arrived in the development and humanitarian sector, she says she immediately saw a need for the international development sector in New Zealand to re-think its values, assumptions and understanding of Pacific peoples in the region. A collective such as this one is essential in New Zealand, Christine says.
“There is a lot at stake for New Zealand when defining the Pacific, especially when looking to deepen New Zealand’s influence and relationships within the region.
“For the first time in the international sector here in New Zealand, indigenous Māori and Pacific development, humanitarian practitioners and advocates have been drawn together from different organisations to represents the value of diverse Pacific worldviews, different Pacific language skills to share our years of service and expertise to Pacific peoples to shape doing development differently.”
Read more here