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Inspiring change

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Whenua Iti Outdoors delivers challenging and educational experiences in the diverse and spectacular environment of the South Island. It provides a platform for success at a time when some of our young people are struggling, and delivers unique experiential learning programmes designed to inspire positive change.

Whenua Iti’s name was given to the founding members of the Whenua Iti Trust in 1986 by local kaumatua Uncle Tom Bailey. The founder of Whenua Iti, Hazel Nash, gifted what she called her “little piece of land” to the trust and from this Uncle Tom chose the name Whenua Iti. The direct Māori translation of Whenua Iti is ‘little piece of land’. In Māori, the word whenua also means placenta, drawing a deeper connection to the name Whenua Iti as a small place from which great things can grow.

It was a dream of self-sufficiency that motivated Hazel and her partner to move to the block of land in Lower Moutere.

The local community was welcoming and new friends were easily made, but after a few years the dream changed and grew. Hazel took ownership of the farm then travelled, observed, learned and experienced community living. She came home with a plan to offer opportunities for holistic learning.

A trust was formed and Whenua Iti Outdoors changed its focus from offering courses to adults to children and youth, but the mandate and vision have always remained the same.

A Whenua Iti Outdoors experience is not an outdoor recreational experience, but more a conscious educational experience: engaging and impactful.

For 30 years Whenua Iti Outdoors has been developing adventurous and challenging programmes focused on the individuals and organisations it works with.

At Whenua Iti Outdoors there’s no off-the-shelf product; all programmes are tailored to the attendees – identifying their needs then discussing them with the respective schools to ascertain the desired outcome of the programmes.

The programmes vary from a few hours to multi-day adventures, and combine activities that appeal to all ages and abilities.

General Manager Mark Bruce-Miller says, “Whenua Iti focuses on what it is to be a teenager in society and what a teenager’s role is in society.

We present challenges that they can adapt to in an outdoor environment, and help them realise what role they play in a team within an outdoor setting.

“We present participants with all sorts of challenges and working together, face to face, without the use of technology, they really find overcoming those challenges incredibly empowering.

“Whenua Iti Outdoors uses the outdoors, the natural environment and cultural connections as a medium for challenge and personal growth to achieve our vision of ‘Experiential learning inspiring positive change’.”

Whenua Iti is a New Zealand Qualifications Authority approved provider, so can combine the teaching of essential life skills with nationally recognised qualifications, such as NCEA.

In 2016 Whenua Iti began a journey to measure and evaluate these impacts, determine how long lasting they might be, and produced a social impact report to tell its story.
“Our work often falls outside the scope of mainstream education and many other government agencies. And yet everyone I speak to is incredibly complimentary about what we do, and convinced that it plays a crucial role in the development of strong, resilient and healthy young people,” says Mark.

Streams of participants in the programmes have endorsed the value of their experiences, some even making life changing decisions to start careers based on their time at Whenua Iti.

They know that the benefits of the programmes are holistic and wide ranging and they strive to make Whenua Iti a space where these experiences are available to and valued by all.

The community-focused organisation already has the support of many organisations, including a long-standing relationship with Bowater Toyota, and it is currently strengthening a philanthropic arm in Whenua Iti Outdoors called the Whenua Iti Foundation, through which sponsors large and small can donate to the trust.