The role of volunteers at RainbowYOUTH is vital to our day-to-day running, and to several of the services we’ve been providing since our earliest days (such as our peer support groups). We work hard to make sure that our volunteers are recognised for the work they do, and also have access to some cool opportunities they wouldn’t usually have. This year, RY teamed up with Outward Bound as one of their community partners which meant that we could offer Outward Bound courses to our members at a special price. Then the awesome folks at ASB generously funded two of our volunteers to attend an Outward Bound course in August.

Selected to go were our Co-Chairperson, Sophie and facilitator of GQ and Star* , Hayden. The prospect of three weeks with a bunch of strangers, with no contact with home or the internet was definitely a source of nervousness for both Sophie and Hayden, as well as the RY staff team. But both Sophie and Hayden came back safe and sound with some awesome stories to share.

Here’s a few of the highlights:

“It’s so hard to put into words how amazing the course was, if i explained to you all the physical stuff we did everyday you’d think everyone would’ve been grumpy and tired the whole time but everyone was prepared to push themselves and although breakdowns did occur, more often than not we were laughing” – Hayden

Hayden (right) with one of the Outward Bound crew

Hayden (right) with one of the Outward Bound crew

“We packed a huge amount of activities into the three-week course. We conquered the 12-metre-tall high ropes course. We practiced our new map and compass navigation skills by scaling the steep slopes of Mt Onahau, slept under our badly-hung fly sheets, and tramped back down the next morning in the rain. We set ourselves goals for the course by running all over the neighbourhood locating self-reflection activities. We went white water kayaking as snow began to fall on the surrounding mountains, wearing two layers of thermals under our two layers of wetsuit. We went out to volunteer in the community, gardening at the local marae and helping DOC to save newly planted native trees that had been swept over in a flood. We climbed the natural rock wall, some of us in blindfolds made out of blackened swimming goggles. We tried to go sailing, but ended up rowing for two days straight. We slept on the floor and sides of our cutter, and rowed all the way to the outer limits of the Sound, taking occasional side trips to meet pods of dolphins” – Sophie

Sophie (second from right) with her Outward Bound group

Sophie (second from right) with her Outward Bound group

“Sailing through the night under the stars while my watchmates sung and some played a guitar was probably one of my biggest highlights of the trip. Reaching the peaks we did on the hike, literally being in the clouds, with snow under our feet and being able to see the north island in the distance is unforgettable” – Hayden

“I came out to my group early on in the course, not really sure what to expect. Some of my group were fresh out of ‘boyish’ high school culture, others came from religious backgrounds, and some seemed to have never met an out queer person before. But they were very open and accepting, quickly setting group rules to cut the homophobia from their language, and working hard to police each others’ phrasing, which was a very welcoming gesture” – Sophie

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“One of the things I was particularly nervous about was how the group would deal with my gender, I’m a non-binary transperson. Lucky I was blessed with an amazing group, and although sometimes ignorant they were supportive and ready learn and understand. I think it was really good for me to see this because I’ve found it quite hard to open up to people outside of the lgbtqia+ community, it was good for me to learn that sometimes trusting people who I think wouldn’t understand can be worth it” – Hayden

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“There are many parts of the experience that really cannot be conveyed in writing. But this was definitely one of the best, most rewarding experiences of my life” – Sophie

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“Outward Bound taught me so much about myself, definitely improved my self confidence and helped improve my mental health by helping me see how much I’m capable of” – Hayden

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A huge thank you to both Outward Bound and ASB for making this opportunity possible for our members. We can’t wait to offer the experience to more of our awesome volunteers!