“The Spirit of Adventure Inspiration Voyage was one of the most amazing times of my life. Not only was I faced with my own challenges and barriers, but the challenges that others in my group faced as well. We learnt how to fend for each other as part of team building, and this taught me a lot.” - Rachel Berry, training participant

Rachel Berry is one of two young people supported by Deaf Aotearoa to take part in a training of a different kind. The Spirit of Adventure is a voyage for young people which develops team work, communication, leadership, self-reliance, self-discipline, self-esteem and confidence. Young people take part in a sailing journey designed to take them outside of their comfort zones. Rachel’s voyage was funded through Te Pou’s Consumer Leadership Development grant.

Spirit of Adventure
Topsail schooner Spirit of Adventure

The Spirit of Adventure Trust has provided this unique training for 35 years. Around 1200 young people have participated in their Youth Development programme. Independent university studies demonstrate the effectiveness of the programme for improving self-esteem, self-efficacy and resilience.

Using a ‘learning by doing’ approach, Spirit of Adventure provides opportunities for young people to gain confidence, overcome their fears and achieve things they previously might have thought impossible. Experienced buddies (young people who have already completed a 10 day voyage) help new trainees overcome their challenges, for example, climbing a high mast or jumping of the boat for a morning swim.

Rachel participated in the five day Inspiration Voyage, which is specifically designed for young people between 16 -20 years in age with disabilities.

Ursula Thynne, youth services team leader at Deaf Aotearoa explains, “For many of these participants it may be the first time on a boat, being away from home for more than four days and also playing a key role in keeping the ship up and running from day to day. This is an unique leadership development programme, encourages self empowerment and most importantly gives the Deaf and hard of hearing youth an opportunity to discover more about their abilities on board the Spirit of Adventure.”

Rachel says the voyage helped her become more confident and grow as a person. “This voyage changed the way I thought, the way I acted towards everyone. I grew a lot as a person there, and felt comfortable to share my experiences and challenges. I learnt a lot about team building and how to be a valuable team member”, says Rachel. She describes the confidence gained as a key factor to being able to work in a team, being able to listen and communicate with each other.

As there wasn’t a qualified New Zealand sign language (NZSL) interpreter on board and Rachel was the only person in the group of deaf people who could hear pretty well, she stepped up to translate into sign language for others. Rachel says, “There wasn’t anything we could do, we couldn’t really ring somebody and ask for an interpreter, so I just thought if I could understand them, why can’t I just translate back to the deaf participants.”

She thinks even the organisers realised how important it is to have an NZSL interpreter to ensure every trainee gets the most out of the learning experience.

Rachel Berry

Rachel thinks it was also good for the buddies and watch leaders who weren’t disabled to understand what it’s like for people who are deaf, and were encouraged to learn sign language. One of the buddies has taken up learning sign language since the voyage.

Rachel says, “This is a benefit for us, because this means that they know a little bit of sign for future deaf participants who may come on board.”

The positive impact of the voyage has continued for Rachel. “I use most the skills daily, at my workplace and in my personal life” she says.

For Rachel, the voyage confirmed for her what she wants to do for a job: support people who don’t have the ability to do certain things, because she knows how it is from her own experience. Rachel now works as a youth worker and says that the voyage was very worthwhile and has taught her a lot of things, which she now uses as part of her role. “I left that voyage feeling confident and independent, not needing anyone to rely on for help.

Not long after the voyage Rachel moved cities and she thinks that the voyage experience helped ‘big time’ with the shift.

“The voyage was great. I absolutely loved it and really want to go back again next year as a buddy.”
- Rachel Berry, training participant