Sixteen year old Stephie Claridge and her family have been familiar faces at Kaipatiki Project Environment Centre’s community planting days on Auckland’s North Shore in recent years. So it was no surprise when Stephie’s name appeared on the list of registrations for the WWF-NZ Youth Environmental Leaders programme when Kaipatiki Project launched it in April 2016.
The programme quickly put Stephie and her ten fellow youth leaders in the room with some of Auckland’s leading sustainability and environmental action practitioners, including Sustainable Coastlines, Kainga Ora, Okahu Rakau, Ngāti Whatua o Orakei and Pōtiki Adventures. Inspired by the experience, the group of young people are now developing their own individual environmental projects under Kaipatiki Project’s guidance.
Stephie has ambitious ideas for the kind of environmental initiative she hopes to get underway. With mum Sue (a local Guide Leader), Stephie has been discussing a possible restoration project involving Brownies, Guides and Rangers in the Takapuna-Devonport District. Stephie is just finishing her Queen’s Guide award, (the highest youth award in GirlGuiding NZ), is a Brownie Leader and also helps lead the Guides, so she is keen to do something with the girls she works with. This potential long-term project would involve cleaning up, weeding and carrying out native replantings near to where the girls have their meetings in Jutland Road reserve in the Hauraki area of the North Shore.
Planting trees is just one of Stephie’s hobbies – “I like the environment, science (biology in particular), reading, writing, outdoorsy-type stuff (eg. tramping, camping, kayaking), ornithology and card games”. High on Stephie’s priorities over the next few years is to get as much experience as possible in a range of situations with different organisations and in different roles. That’s why she not only enrolled as a Youth Environmental Leader at Kaipatiki Project, but she is also now one of their Trainee Planting Co-ordinators for the winter planting season (the youngest person ever to enrol in the programme’s seven year history), helping people get involved in the kind of tree-planting fun she has enjoyed with her own family.
Anna Halliwell, Projects Manager at Kaipatiki Project, is delighted with the Youth Leaders’ programme and with Stephie’s appetitie for new experiences. “Watching Stephie at work, especially engaging with young people, you can see that she is blossoming with each new responsibility she takes on as an environmental leader. Sometimes it is the softest voice in the room that can inspire and educate in the most memorable way. Stephie is passionate about connecting young people with their environment – we think she will be an environmental force to be reckoned with one day”.