Twenty-six-year-old Adam McHugh isn't one to sit back and wonder what's happening when he hears a fire siren, he gets into the thick of the action. Adam has been a volunteer member of Lake Okareka Rural Fire Force's 14-strong crew for two years now. It may be a small volunteer fire unit but the team is built from a strong sense of community, generous hearts and big ideas. Take the training sessions with other Rotorua emergency services, fundraising for the Leukaemia Foundation and CanTeen, and hosting a community Guy Fawkes event — the list goes on. But it was fire chief Phil Muldoon who first thought of getting young people involved with local emergency services as way to connect them with their communities, and potential career options.
Now, Youth in Emergency Services (YES) is a national programme run collaboratively by Ministry of Youth Development and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management in 20 communities across the country. After reading about the YES project in the June 2014 issue of Rise, the Outward Bound Trust offered a place for a Lake Okareka crew member to attend one of its courses. Located in the Marlborough Sounds, Outward Bound helps people reach their full potential through challenge in the outdoors. It also works closely with Work and Income to offer a range of training courses for Work and Income's young jobseekers. In the case of the Lake Okareka place on offer, Adam McHugh, a design engineer with Rotorua's BSK Consulting Engineers, was an obvious choice. With the approval of his boss, and fuelled by excitement and curiosity, Adam tried to research the programme and talk to former Outward Bound participants. "The people who've been on the course don't give too much away — it turns out the best thing about the course is the unknown."
Heading off last August, Adam travelled to Wellington and caught the Cook Straight ferry across to the Marlborough Sounds, aware nine others also heading to Outward Bound were on board. Soon after arriving at picturesque Anakiwa, the identity of his new course mates was soon revealed as they gathered together for a run, followed by a brisk winter swim. Over the next week the group would become bonded together by activities and through being open and accepting of, and with, each other. "We became friends fast. People don't generally support strangers in everyday life, we're consumed in our own lives, but at Outward Bound you need to support each other," says Adam. "Teamwork is encouraged... empowering those who are comfortable to step up and help those who may not be so sure, it teaches you to take the time to get to know people." One of Adam's highlights was spending two nights solo in Queen Charlotte Sound.
While he doesn't want to give too much away about the actual activity, he says it came at a time when the whole idea of challenging himself had become a personal philosophy, something he'd never really done before. While everyone's solo experience is different, Adam says being dropped off in an unknown location in the dark of the night, preparing his own campsite, and waking up to an amazing view was humbling. "I spent the night naively trying to animal-proof my tent, digging channel drains around the tent and getting the floor right", he laughs. "I was out of my comfort zone and my mind was going a million miles an hour. Once the day dawned and I realised how lucky I was to be part of this beautiful landscape,
I began to accept and appreciate that this was something I may never get to do again. I had an inner peace and didn't want the day to end." Seven days later, the former strangers re-boarded the ferry destined for the North Island, bonded by a raft of experiences none of them will ever forget. Back in Rotorua, Adam hasn't slowed down. "It's all about giving back", he says. Adam has since expressed an interest in returning to Outward Bound to help young people with disabilities complete the course. He's also been accepted to work on a humanitarian project in Nepal this year, where his engineering skills will be utilised through construction of community buildings. Locally, Adam's attention has turned to CanTeen where he and his Lake Okareka team plan on providing unique activities for young people living with cancer, their families and supporters. He's also looking forward to continuing his emergency services training both in-house and with other emergency services, and is keen to continue with the YES programme. "A kahikatea tree on its own can only grow 15 metres, a kahikatea tree in a thicket of trees can grow up to 47 metres. "I believe if you surround yourself with family and friends who support your growth, you'll achieve great things."
Youth in Emergency Services (YES)
Outward Bound and Work and Income
The philosophy of Outward Bound is to challenge people to go outside their comfort zone and gain opportunities to learn and reflect on their personal and social values. Outward Bound and Work and Income join forces to offer a range of training courses for Work and Income's young jobseekers. These courses are based in Anikiwa, in the Marlborough Sounds, and aim to improve people's self-confidence, motivation and discipline, so that they have a better prospect of finding and staying in work.
RISE: Issue 29 — March 2015