Search­ing for some­thing to do

Te Puke Times - - NEWS - By STU­ART WHI­TAKER news@tepuke­

So­phie Wardell has gone from not hav­ing much to do with her week­ends to not quite hav­ing enough time to do ev­ery­thing.

Four years ago, she joined Tau­ranga Youth Search and Res­cue — trig­ger­ing the turn­around.

“This is my fourth year be­ing in­volved,” she says. “I was al­ways a re­ally in­tense kid and didn’t re­ally have any­thing to do on my week­ends and hadn’t committed to any­thing. My sis­ter’s best friend did YSAR and came over one day, and was re­ally rec­om­mend­ing it and I was the per­fect age.”

She says YSAR is a now a huge part of her life.

“I love be­ing out in the bush and tramp­ing and mak­ing new friends and learn­ing new things.”

So­phie was one of four teenagers who, with two in­struc­tors, spent two weeks in the US where they joined a ma­jor search and res­cue ex­er­cise inside Yosemite Na­tional Park. The team spent two weeks train­ing and ex­chang­ing ideas with the Marin County Search and Res­cue team.

“It was ab­so­lutely amaz­ing — I loved it so much.”

So­phie says YSAR is like do­ing an Out­ward Bound course or Spirit of Ad­ven­ture ex­pe­ri­ence — but for a pro­longed pe­riod.

“You are learn­ing all those same skills — bushcraft and nav­i­ga­tion and safety — and the skills you learn are trans­fer­able. You can use them ev­ery­where.”

So­phie plans to join the New Zealand Navy as a medic, and says she has no doubt the skills she has learned will help.

If she isn’t ac­cepted she says she is likely to join ei­ther St John or a vol­un­teer fire brigade.

YSAR gen­eral man­ager Steve Camp­bell says in­struc­tors im­me­di­ately no­ticed So­phie when she joined YSAR in Feb 2015.

“She was a very shy young girl,” he says. “Yet right from the start the in­struc­tors iden­ti­fied in her this unique for­ti­tude where, al­though shy, she would give ev­ery­thing a go, from dif­fi­cult nav­i­ga­tion ex­er­cises to step­ping up to tak­ing lead­er­ship roles in groups.”

He says So­phie has de­vel­oped into an amaz­ing per­son, full of en­ergy, re­li­able, con­fi­dent in her per­son­al­ity and she pos­sesses a will­ing­ness to help out wher­ever she can.

“So­phie has taken up a lead­er­ship role in YSAR this year and her in­put is in­valu­able. Both stu­dents and lead­ers look up to her and the ex­am­ple she sets in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Steve says So­phie is a great ex­am­ple of the kind of per­sonal de­vel­op­ment that hap­pens when stu­dents join the or­gan­i­sa­tion and it’s the rea­son in­struc­tors de­vote hun­dreds of vol­un­teer hours to the pro­gramme.

“It’s pretty fan­tas­tic to know we’re help­ing to de­velop these multi-skilled young peo­ple who’ll be in­valu­able to their com­mu­nity. Some of them will go on to save lives but they’re also go­ing to be great hu­man be­ings.”

YSAR was launched in Tau­ranga a decade ago by for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer Steve and sev­eral col­leagues who recog­nised ex­ist­ing search and res­cue vol­un­teers were age­ing and numbers were dwin­dling. They de­signed a three-year pro­gramme that an­nu­ally ac­cepts about two dozen new stu­dents from around the West­ern Bay of Plenty. In Fe­bru­ary this year, the pro­gramme was de­liv­ered to young Auck­lan­ders for the first time and it has at­tracted in­ter­est from Sin­ga­pore, Canada and be­yond.

Suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants are aged be­tween 14 and 18 and, since that first in­take in late 2008, more than 275 teenagers have at­tended weekly class­room lessons and monthly camps. Dur­ing field ex­er­cises, the stu­dents spend all week­end in the out­doors, pri­mar­ily the Kaimai range.

They learn ev­ery­thing from track­ing tech­niques, plant iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to drone oper­a­tion skills as well as gain­ing coast­guard and first aid qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Ev­ery stu­dent is ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate in vol­un­teer ac­tiv­i­ties. Last year, their vol­un­teer work in­cluded mar­shalling at the an­nual breast can­cer fundrais­ing night walks in the Pa¯pa¯moa Hills and aid­ing the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion with pest con­trol work.

“Our lessons have a se­ri­ous life­sav­ing pur­pose aimed at teach­ing par­tic­i­pants how to take care of them­selves in dif­fi­cult, some­times hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments and to even­tu­ally be able to aid po­lice and ex­pe­ri­enced vol­un­teers with of­fi­cial searches,” Steve says.

“The course also opens up ca­reer path­ways for many stu­dents, with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on the Sci­ence Tech­nol­ogy En­gi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics (STEM) path­ways.”

Ap­pli­ca­tions for the next in­take close on Septem­ber 28. De­tails are on the YSAR web­site —

“Ap­ply, even if you come to one camp and see if you like it or not,” says So­phie. “You can con­tinue do­ing it or not, but I’d def­i­nitely give it a go at least.”

TE Puke High School and YSAR stu­dent So­phie Wardell.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.