Volunteering without gumboots

Department of Conservation —  08/12/2014

When you think of conservation volunteers you might imagine people in sweaty clothes and gumboots, planting trees. However, as high school student and conservation volunteer Brahminy Tumminello explains, there are lots of ways to get involved… 

In the summer of 2013, a young Polish man and his wife set out on a wilderness adventure for New Zealand. Lukasz Tracewski was so bewitched by the beauty of the landscape that he was inspired to get involved in the country’s conservation work. But, as a physicist living in the Netherlands, how could he possibly help?

Lukasz Tracewski posing for the camera at Lake Harris in the South Island.

Lukasz Tracewski posing for the camera at Lake Harris in the South Island

After returning home, with his mind set on contributing to conservation in New Zealand, Lukasz contacted DOC and was soon directed to Senior Technology Advisor, Barry Polley.

Barry presented Lukasz with the opportunity to get involved with developing a computer application for identifying and monitoring kiwi birdsong, which he could do from his home in the Netherlands.

Lukasz re-enacting Lord of the Rings at Mount Tongariro.

Lukasz re-enacting Lord of the Rings at Mount Tongariro

For someone whose job consists of working with electron microscopes, creating a computer application was a new experience for Lukasz.

The challenge presented him with a new list of skills he can add to his resume. Not only did Lukasz highly enjoy working with Barry, but got inspired to work with other conservation organisations including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, UK) and Birdlife International.

Lukasz and his wife Anna enjoying the mountain tops.

Lukasz and his wife Anna enjoying the mountain tops

Brahminy having fun on the Pororari Loop track in Punakaiki.

Brahminy on the Pororari Loop track in Punakaiki

During the same summer, a young Australian girl and her family hopped on a one-way flight to New Zealand.

From then on, every school holiday was a two-week break road tripping and exploring the spectacular country.

In 2014, and in her second to last year of high school, Brahminy Tumminello wanted to do more than sit in a classroom for six hours a day, and had a desire to explore ‘the workplace’. So she started volunteering at DOC’s National Office in Wellington once a week.

From lunchtime each Friday she would bathe in the glory of undertaking an adult routine.

Anyone who sits in front of a computer everyday probably wouldn’t find it as exciting, but for her it was a dream come true.

The volunteer work was just as exciting. Brahminy didn’t have to wear a pair of gumboots in order to help out, rather the opposite in fact. Moving from desk to desk around the National Volunteering Team, Brahminy’s supervisor, and Volunteering Programme Developer, Mui Ngah Lee presented her with creative projects to pitch in with. This included using her artistic skills to create a digital thank you card for conservation volunteer managers.

In the end, Lukasz and Brahminy enjoyed working with the awesome people of DOC. Both cherishing two different experiences; one involved at the heart of conservation work in New Zealand and the other from across the globe. Showing that anyone can volunteer for conservation, from sitting in an office to tramping out in the wild.