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By Joan Clark, Artist, Author and Tutor, Community Education Organiser, REAP Marlborough
Ko Joan Toku Ingua, He Kei Tā, He Kei Whakahaere

As unique as REAPs are in rural New Zealand so too are the wonderful Outpost Facilitators (volunteers) for REAP Marlborough – the oldest REAP in New Zealand. None of the other REAPs scattered around the country have the loyal, hardworking, community-minded people tucked in the valleys and hills, beaches or bays that is our rural backyard.

Our area stretches from the far reaches of the sounds to Kaikōura, inland to the Molesworth and everywhere in between. About 20 volunteers who live rurally are usually involved with many other aspects of their community but they happily help to organise courses in their areas as well.

Rita Jacobson is our longest serving outpost facilitator with 23 years under her belt, organising all manner of courses over the years for her community, including art classes, first aid, welding, cooking, gardening, mosaics and bonsi, cheese and bread making, computers, digital photography, day skippers, guitar and pasta making to name a few. Sadly Rita stepped down from her role at the end of last year. Big boots to fill but hopefully we will find someone with the same passion to replace Rita soon.

One of the loveliest things about these volunteers is the friendships we have made with them over the years. In some isolated areas where there is no accommodation, we have been hosted by volunteers in their homes. They know they can pop in to see us anytime for a chat if they have time when they come to town.

Twice a year we have a get-together: an admin day in March and an end of year luncheon. Everyone is so busy that this year our admin day was cancelled. We are well used to thinking of other plans and so all three speakers from that day have agreed to go out to rural areas with their sessions. Consequently Making Natural Household Cleaners will be held in Wairau Valley and Practical Newsletter Advice and Tips will be held at Rai Valley and Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Issues is planned for Waihopai Valley.

Back in the day Outpost Facilitators picked a date, got the information out to their community, booked a venue and organised a tutor. Then they had to cajole six people to participate, gather their details and money. Today with email trees, internet banking and working with REAP Marlborough staff, the running of the courses is a lot easier. However, people’s lives are so much busier now and getting the magic six people to enrol in that topic – and all be available at the same time – still remains the hardest aspect.

One factor that has never changed through the years is the all-important need for social cohesion. People need people for companionship, to share, to care, to ask for help, to chat or feel they belong and connected to a community. One lady, Margaret, attending a REAP Marlborough day in the Queen Charlotte Sound told us once how much she was looking forward to coming as she hadn’t been ‘out’ for six months.

We held two days of courses in the Awapiri Woolshed, well up the Awatere Valley and the owner kindly put us up as there was no accommodation nearby. When we asked if there was anything she would like us to bring out, she asked for KFC. We happily took her some. Another family attending the workshops hadn’t been out in the community for years and some other locals commented on how lovely it was to see them. The family loved their days out. Same thing in Waihopai Valley where someone had been very unwell and had withdrawn from the community. She came out to the two-day event and the locals were thrilled to see her.

Our Adult and Community Education Government Priorities are: Digital Inclusion, Employability Skills, Foundation Skills, Health and Wellbeing, NZ Sign Language, Other Languages, Te Reo Māori and ESOL. Most of the adult courses we run at REAP Marlborough cover
these priorities.

This week is a typical week for us in Community Education: on Saturday we ran a shearing course, Monday night was NZ Sign Language Week 4, Tuesday was a 4x4 Off Road course, last night was Week 3 of Post Introductory French, today Wednesday is a welding course, tonight is Week 4 of Samoan Language, Saturday is a sushi making course. The following week is Chainsaw, Defensive Driving, First Aid Kaikōura, Upholstery, Creative Writing, Will Preparation, Fermented Foods and more.

To add to that are our all-important rural connections with the Natural Household Cleaners Wairau Valley, a visit to Waikawa Marae to sort out courses there, put up a static display at Picton Library and more! The following week – Natural Household Cleaners Kekerengu and a day of visits in Kaikōura and the next day including a visit to the Takahanga Marae.

People living remote lifestyles in rural Marlborough are particularly grateful to REAP Marlborough for our subsidy on first aid courses. These people rely on each other in times of crisis but when it is an accident and possibly a life-or-death situation it pays to know basic first aid. The professional responders can be hours away. Eighteen participants from D’Urville Island and the surrounding outer sounds attended a first aid course held in February at French Pass. Most travelled by boat but some drove windy dusty roads for hours to get there. Thanks too to The Blue Door donation that helps with travel costs to get the first aid instructors to these remote areas.

Some rural Marlborough communities are fiercely independent and don’t do too many courses other than the first aid and sustainability type courses and that’s fine too.

Who knew that after attending a REAP first aid course in Okukari Bay, Tory Channel, that Colleen Logue would be called on to put her skills into practice overseas. Well she did, while visiting a busy food court in Ireland where a man was choking and no one else was assisting him. Colleen leapt into action, used the manoeuvre she had learnt at the REAP Marlborough course and saved his life.

You will be surprised at the variety of courses that we have done in rural Marlborough in my time here over the last 20 years, too many to mention but here are just a few:

  • Off Grid Electricity 101 – Arapawa Island
  • Cultural Day with Wairakau Rongoā, Russian Cooking – Endeavour Inlet
  • Trailer Backing, Iridology, Worm Farming – Waitaria Bay
  • Give it a Go Scuba Diving, Stone Wall Building – Waihopai Valley
  • Geocaching, Indian Cooking – Linkwater
  • Men’s Only Day – Dryden Bay.

We proudly run upskilling courses as well in both Blenheim and in rural areas, chainsaw, tractor and quad bike skills and safety, 4x4 off road skills, welding, gun licence and a new course this year Forestry 101.

Correspondence children have come to REAP House for many years once a week for extra tuition. We have enjoyed being part of their school camps offering arts and crafts and technology-based courses. Another link to rurally isolated folk.

Murals and mosaics on the walls of Ward and Linkwater Schools or Stone Carving at Spring Creek and Rotoiti schools have been a happy part of my work – working with delightful, well behaved children. A young man, now an apprentice working alongside my son, was one of the children who did the Ward School mural and he chatted the other day about how much they loved it. I had to find the photos to identify him.

We know we are very fortunate to have our Outpost Facilitators, these kind, caring people like Mary at Muller Station in the Awatere Valley, Brenda at Okiwi Bay, Sarah in Kaikōura, the girls at Wairau Valley and Ellen and Dorothy at Waitaria Bay all of whom have clocked up many years of organising courses in their community and many more in between.

You will probably want to come and live in Marlborough after reading this article and seeing how lucky we are to have a REAP based here!