The trip was made possible via the zoo's community outreach programme. “We’re very thankful,” says Rhonnie Dewar, an ELP coordinator who helped organise the trip. “They’ve made it so easy for us and it’s been a brilliant day.”
A first for many, the trip was an energising get-together after Auckland’s long stretches of ‘Covid enforced’ online lessons.
With the sun finally out, learners and volunteers of all nationalities and ages laughed together as they discovered the zoo’s wildlife.
Rhonnie says it’s been great for volunteers and learners to get out of their homes. “To be with the animals and to talk about them. It’s educational and fun!
“There’s animals here they may have read about in books, but not actually had the opportunity to see in real life,” says Andrew Barron, ELP’s North Shore manager, who lent a hand on the day.
Retired journalist Peter Calder came along with his learner and family, and the close friendship they have forged was obvious. “It’s just been enormously enjoyable for me, spending time with this family outside of the formal classroom setting.”
Peter’s been volunteering with ELP for about three years, and is passionate about the cause.
"For me, it’s a really important part of what we call manaakitanga in this country: welcoming people."
The family he works with comes from Afghanistan. “They’ve seen some hard times, as you can imagine.”
Peter says a big barrier for the family living here is a lack of English. “If they’re going to break out of their own community and really integrate into this country, acquisition of language is the most important thing.”
It’s a really important part of what we call manaakitanga in this country: welcoming people.
Peter spends an hour per week teaching language and other aspects of Kiwi life with his family.
"It’s a very small commitment on my part, but I think it makes a substantial difference to their lives. I certainly hope so."
ELP administrator Trish Goddard, helped organise the outing and is also a volunteer. She says New Zealand has one of the highest levels of volunteering in the world.
“Volunteering actually increases your serotonin levels,” says Trish. “If you’re feeling stressed and have had a hard week, there’s nothing better than going to do some volunteering.
“It helps yourself as much as your learners. It goes both ways.”
English Language Partners extends its huge appreciation to the Auckland Zoo for their hospitality and community spirit.