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Community outdoor course benefits Farmlander

Abseiling, kayaking, tramping, mountain biking and first aid were just some of the skills Jacqui Latimer learned as part of an annual outdoor course in Otago.

But it’s the confidence, self-esteem and teamwork she will benefit from the most. The Farmlands Oamaru Salesperson was sponsored by the Waiareka Valley Lions Club to take part in the eight-day Berwick Outdoor Experience course, about 40km south of Dunedin. The Berwick Forest course aims to broaden people’s experiences in life by using teamwork to improve individual confidence and self-esteem.

She says as a shy person, the experience was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” making her more confident and identifying her strengths and weaknesses.“It’s not about fitness levels, it’s about being you – never giving up and believing in yourself,” the 29-year-old says. Jacqui heard about it from local shareholders Callum and Bob Kingan and she now highly recommends it, both for its physical and mental challenges.

“It gave me a chance to think outside the square and challenge myself. It teaches you to speak your mind and believe in yourself because speaking up can never be a silly option as you might have the right answer.” Jacqui says she has been applying what she learned to her work too – something Bob is happy about. The Waiareka Valley Lions Treasurer says they are always looking for local people to take part in the course and Jacqui’s learnings would benefit shareholders and the community. “It’s a win-win all round.”

Shareholder’s idea changed lives

Shareholder Kevin Moore, who was a Taieri Lions member, came up with the idea for the course nearly 30 years ago. The retired dairy farmer, who now lives in Twizel, says Otago needed a course that helped with personal development.

“I was a pretty shy farmer. I gave the idea to the Lions Club and they threw it back at me and said well let’s do something about it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” With the help of the club, his neighbour Rob Urquhart and Graham Foley, they set up the course which is now run by Taieri Lions volunteers and takes place every May at Berwick Lodge. “It changed my life and I think it’s changed lots of other people’s lives too,” Kevin says.

Over the 28 years, they have had a wide range of people from across the country take part, ranging in age from 18-79. Kevin, who received a Queen’s Service Medal for his services to outdoor education and the community in 2017, says the course naturally suits farmers because of the outdoor aspect. “We do get a lot of rural people and a lot of people from dairy farms and other types of farms as well. We also get students from Primary ITO every year and staff from Trustpower.

“Everyone takes something different from it. Everyone has something to give, it’s just about drawing it out of them and giving them a chance.”

To find out more visit berwickoutdoorexperience.co.nz