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Woofers find a home in Raglan

Today is a great day in Raglan; in fact she’s a pearler. With azure sky and topaz sea — it’s a day when one feels that life is not just a little enchanted.

I have had the very good fortune to call Whaingaroa home for the last 17 years, which has me wondering what sort of impact a day like today would have on visitors.

Emma Donaldson (28) from Devon, England and Aynsley Rope (23) from Auckland, are relatively new to the area, having arrived as WWoofers. WWOOF New Zealand is part of a worldwide community that promotes awareness of ecological farming practices by providing volunteers with the opportunity to live and learn on organic properties.

WWOOF originally stood for “Working Weekends on Organic Farms” and began in England in 1971, but the name has morphed into World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms also known as Willing Workers on Organic Farms.

Essentially what is involved is an exchange of knowledge and skills for accommodation and labour. Great stuff indeed, the barter system alive and well.

Woofing is a great way to travel the world and meet like-minded people. Not just the world, mind you, but your own back yard.

Aynsley, a nanny from Auckland, saw Last Paradise at the movies, and thought she might want to learn how to surf. She went straight home, googled surf lessons and with a friend immediately booked a 4-day package at Raglan Surf School. She arrived here in the middle of winter “like literally” on one of the most awful days imaginable, gale force winds and hail. Surf instructor, Zennor Wernham, stuck with the girls however and coaxed them through their very first surf experience, when the conditions could have easily put them off for life.

On arrival back in Auckland, Aynsley thought, “this is not where I want to be”, and said to her Mum “I’m going to move to Raglan.” She hasn’t looked back since. She is manager of the WWoofers at Karioi Outdoor Centre and loves the complete change in lifestyle.

It was also a desire to surf that brought Emma, mortgage advisor from Devon, to Raglan, although in a slightly more serendipitous way. Approx 1.5 years ago, fed up with life in the rat race, Emma dreamed about the freedom of surfing, so booked in a week long intensive surf program at Cornwall, on the South West coast of England. Her surf instructor Jo Hale was so so passionate about the sport that Emma was hooked instantly.

Deciding to travel but not sure where, Emma booked flights and got her visa to New Zealand within two weeks. As surfing was the motivator she found herself on the Stray Bus headed for Raglan. Although not sure what to expect, as soon as she arrived Emma knew, just knew, she had ‘arrived’. As the bus pulled up at Karioi Lodge the very first person she saw was Jo Hale, surf instructor, from Cornwall. Neither had any idea the other was coming.

So what is involved in the day of the life as a Wwoofer? Each property or situation is different, however at Karioi Lodge they volunteer work around the camp in exchange for accommodation. This involves cleaning, cooking and tending the free-range chooks, beehives and abundant garden that provides food for Wwoofer’s and guests at the camp alike.

The girls describe the Wwoofers and staff at Karioi Camp as one big family, every one looks out for each other and Aynsley says “we hook people up hard out” if we see they are without food or need for anything.

Brenda Rae Kidd

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