Learning Curves

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It was the strangest feeling for the other two Whangarei delegates and I to walk across the airport tarmac, realising we were about to part and continue in our ‘ordinary’ routines- back to reality. The Youth Enviro Leader’s Forum 2016 has been undeniably the most amazing, action packed and inspiring week- it was heart-breaking to leave it, and all of our new ‘yelfie’ friends, behind. Upon returning home, the commonly asked questions burn- what was YELF like? Was was your favourite part? What did you learn?

I cannot even put into words what YELF meant to me, how much it empowered and inspired me, and how much valuable knowledge I learnt. It further confirmed what I have always known - I love this Earth and its environment, and I will do anything to protect it. I will undeniably pursue a career in conservation and science, acting as one of New Zealand’s young leaders who will help change the world - allowing nothing to stand in the way of a healthier planet.

It was amazing to meet so many youth, like myself, with such a passion for the environment. The friendship bonds so many of us formed on YELF are amazing, and I am confident many of us will stay in touch.

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The chaperones themselves were among the most inspiring- all beginning their careers as young environmental leaders, just as ourselves, yet are now so successful in their endeavours. Each chaperone, scientist and entrepreneur we met throughout YELF had a unique and equally inspiring story about how they got to where they are now - exactly where I aim to be when I finish school.

During our closing ceremony, it was mentioned by Shelley that ‘if you return home only talking of YELF, we would have failed’- I can guarantee this is indeed not the case, as ideas of positive changes and impacts I can have on my school, community and environment are already burning in my brain- I cannot wait to begin. Upon returning home, less than 6 hours ago, my entire family and I have already signed up to become ‘marine mammal medics’ for the Jonah Project, and I cannot wait to implement some of my newly improved environmental knowledge and skills in my school and community.

But YELF hasn’t just taught me about the environment and conservation, I learnt a lot about leadership too. One of the biggest learning curves for me was realising that, when in a room full of equally confident leaders, a major component of leadership is actually stepping down, listening and allowing others to guide the group. It seems so simple, yet I know many of us were shocked that we had not previously realised it ourselves.

My passion and love for the environment only continues to strengthen, and I will do anything within my power to ensure I stay within the trust- applying for the ‘Young Blake Expeditions’ now that we are eligible, and hopefully returning to YELF in the near future as a chaperone, so I too can inspire enthusiastic high school students- just as my chaperones inspired me.

YELF has supplied me with a wealth of knowledge and I am now confident that we, as New Zealand’s youth, can truly change the thinking of the masses, and encourage people to conserve our natural environment. As the great Sir Peter Blake himself said, “Having a vision is not enough. Change comes through realising the vision and turning it into a reality”- there is no better time than now to pursue our dreams and make change happen.

The Youth EnviroLeaders' Forum has been the most inspiring week of my life.

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