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July 11, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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The ReGeneration Road Trip

You buy an $800 van. You paint it egg-yolk yellow, name it The Magic School Bus, pick up a couple of friends and a digital camera, and take the scenic route on your way home to Hamilton. Provided you snap a photo of the Te Puke Giant Kiwifruit, AA Insurance calls you a veteran of The Great Kiwi Road Trip, and you feel as though you’ve seen all that those 268,680 square kilometres have to offer.

The road trip is a rite of passage for many young Kiwis. But after 15 weeks spent traversing through as many regions of New Zealand, Lani Evans and Jill Hayhurst perhaps know the ever-elusive ‘real New Zealand’ better than most. Crew members of the 2011 ReGeneration Road Trip, the pair arrived in Wellington last week for the final leg of a journey that has seen them connect with over 10,000 community and environmental leaders in places as far-flung as Invercargill and Cape Reinga.

ReGeneration was established in early 2009 as a network for leaders in social and environmental leaders who may feel cut-off from like-minded New Zealanders. “What we’ve noticed is that there are heaps of young people out doing community action, but that they’re isolated,” Lani noted. In order to collaborate at an holistic level, the network provides support for pro-active citizens in the realms of sustainability, social equity, and cultural development—the ‘fundamental issues’,” Lani explained.

Consequently, ReGeneration works to build up a culture of support for New Zealanders from a wide range of backgrounds and projects. “Many of the young people who get involved with ReGeneration come from an Enviroschools background,” Lani said. “But we also collaborate with older people who work on social and community issues.” Lani suggests that this level of diversity helps to explain the success that the association has seen. “ReGeneration is intergenerational – there is a tuakana/teina relationship, a reciprocal nature of teaching. It’s also intra-generational: we see 15-year-olds helping 17-year-olds, and vice versa.”

Usually focussing its energy on high-participation youth conventions in locations such as the Tauhara Centre near Lake Taupo and Living Springs Conference Retreat in Christchurch, ReGeneration decided flip this idea around by sending ten of the network’s core members off to visit people who might otherwise not have attended the conferences. Each region received one week of school visits, mini-conventions, and presentations from the group; and community action projects were also worked on. “Not all communities are in positive places, but in all those communities there are people working toward positive change,” ReGeneration New Zealand co-convener Lani reflected. Perhaps the most memorable few days for Lani were some spent at Parihaka, where the crew were able to partake in a forum discuss issues such as proposals for oil exploration in the area. “There is a real sense of community engagement,” Lani said. “Everyone was aware of the history, the present, and the threats to the future.”

Grasping who was doing what in New Zealand was of especial importance to crew member Jill Hayhurst, who is a PhD candidate researching generosity, resilience, community engagement, social capital, and capacity building at the University of Otago. In keeping with ReGeneration’s theme of encouraging holistic thinking and the associations of a diverse group of people, Jill is the only university student on the road trip. Other members include Rick Zwaan, who at 17 has represented New Zealand at Climate Change negotiations in Copenhagen and Cancun; the New Zealand Country Director for the Global Poverty Project Will Watterson; and manager for the YMCA Youth Development Programme Saskia Nieuwlands. This diversity was beneficial for Jill, who stated that though she enjoyed seeing the country from her angle, “I also had nine other people showing me the country through their lenses.”

Jill and Lani cite co-founder of Splashroom Media Iain Frengley as a central element of the road trip. A prize-winning international filmmaker at the age of 27, Iain has created 90-second mini-documentaries of some of the outstanding community leaders the group has come into contact with. These portraits are then posted online as part of a group effort to raise awareness about the achievements of individual New Zealanders.

Closely associated to this is the ‘Inspiring Stories’ project created by crew member Guy Ryan. Throughout the road trip, Guy has supported 150 young New Zealanders to produce short films and stories about people in their regions. “Film is a powerful medium for making change, and to showcase changes in an accessible way,” Lani explained.

The road trip’s system of utilising individual strengths, combined with a team focus and the obvious effects of spending fifteen weeks in close quarters with a small group of people, has been beneficial for Jill. “I love doing this research but I feel bad not being able to do everything,” she said. “This way I feel as though I am a part of a range of different projects.” After spending time researching the outcomes of a range of community actions, Jill thinks she can tell us a thing or two about the positive effects of projects like the road trip. While only in the first stages of her research, initial analysis has shown that people who participated in the workshops experienced increases in resilience, self-efficacy, happiness, self-esteem, political efficacy, life satisfaction, and a sense of social justice. These positive effects are not lost on Lani, who says frankly: “It is incredible to spend time with rad people doing rad stuff—and feeling like I can contribute to that. Who wouldn’t want to do this?”

The Wellington leg of the ReGeneration Road Trip finishes today. To view the 90-second profiles, find out more about the road trip, and to sign up to be a part of ReGeneration NZ, visit regeneration.org.nz

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  1. Charlotte says:

    Hey there, love the blog.
    I’ve been following Lani and the ReGen teams journey up and down the islands. They even came and filmed me! What a gorgeous, inspiring bunch of people.

    I run Happyzine – a good news website focusing on inspiring community and environmental change – I was wondering if you’d allow me to re-publish this on our site with links back to this awesome blog?

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