Volunteer Jenny Reinbeck tells us about her experience volunteering at DOC. We share her story for International Volunteer Day today.
Part of my studies in natural and cultural heritage management involves fitting in a 20-week internship. Naturally, I contacted the Department of Conservation because it matches my degree perfectly.
DOC directs overseas students to volunteering programs rather than the internship program. After many emails, Skype interviews and reference checks, I was accepted into DOC’s Auckland team. To share my 40 hours per week around, I volunteer across several teams, which means I experience tremendous variety.
I journeyed to Tiritiri Matangi Island just two days after arriving in New Zealand, which was an amazing introduction! Two other volunteers and I helped the local ranger with track maintenance, pruning, and preparing sugar water for hihi. We also met a Dutch student who is working on a project observing and recording bellbird songs and behaviour.
Two weeks later I was busy on Motutapu Island helping renovate the shearer’s quarters. While there I met French students Clara, Justine, and Valentine, who are volunteering for four months assisting the Services team with pest maintenance and bird monitoring.
Between my island adventures, I have been helping in the visitor centre. As a German and French speaker, I assist visitors with planning and booking trips. I love talking with many different and interesting people from all over the world.
Arriving in September meant I had plenty of time to gear up for Conservation Week. The first event was sharing a tent with Kiwis for Kiwi. We used various props to engage children (and their parents) and educate them about pests; the rat trap was a hit! Other events I was involved with included taking school children on a treasure hunt around Motutapu Island, and spending a day in Auckland Domain sharing messages about our native birds with kids from Ronald McDonald House. Also, on Rotoroa Island we worked alongside Auckland Zoo to release shore skinks.
All of these events have readied me for another project. The Services and Partnerships teams have joined forces to develop a volunteer kiosk programme for Rangitoto Island. We’ll meet and greet ferry visitors, engage them in conversations about the island, and share our biosecurity messages. We have recruited another eight volunteers who I will help to supervise and roster throughout the summer.
As well as the kiosk and visitor centre, my current focus is with the Marketing and Communications team. We’re looking closely at one of Auckland’s biggest visitor markets (French and German tourists) to develop ways to help them explore the Hauraki Gulf. This helps my work with the National Volunteering Team in terms of understanding how we communicate with young people, and knowing about innovative volunteering opportunities available for different markets.
Looking back, I’m very happy that I contacted the National Volunteering Team. I have learnt a great deal about conservation (it is much more than just putting up a good fence) and New Zealand’s wildlife and cultural heritage, and I am still finding out more. Volunteering at DOC is recognised as an internship by my university, so it’s great that it contributes towards my study too.
International Volunteer Day was established by the United Nations. It’s celebrated annually on December 5 to show appreciation of volunteers all across the globe who contribute their time, skills and enthusiasm to change the world for a better future. You can find out more about the day here.