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Volunteers' Stories




Diary of my Gap Year, Teaching Music in Schools on a voluntary placement in New Zealand


After a two day long flight, two proposals of marriage by Arabs in Dubai airport and about a total of two hours sleep, I finally landed in Auckland airport where I was met by my projects organiser Annette on Thursday 9th October. And yes, she was actually holding a sign in her hands with my name on it, I felt as though I was in a movie! After arriving I was briefly shown around Auckland city center and I finalised some paper work with Annette.

I was meant to be staying in a Hostel for the duration of my stay, but a lady from the school I am working in had offered to take me in as a home stay. So after my little guided tour, I was taken to her house, which was about a half hour drive from the center.

A Little Bit about the Family

  • They are from Delhi, India

  • Manpreet is the name of the lady that works at the school

  • She is 26

  • She lives with her husband Sammy and his parents

  • They have a pet dog called Sheba and is a German Shepherd

  • Oh, and they are lovely!

My first weekend was fairly chilled. On Friday I got shown around the area I was staying in and the family had some friends over in the evening, so this was my true introduction into Indian culture. Saturday I spent mainly on my own. I went out food shopping with Sammy's mum for things I wanted for the house and then I went off to the city market. That evening I was taken out by Manpreet and Sammy for my introduction into the Auckland night life. And because it's now late into spring here, me and Manpreet took full advantage of the glorious 22 degree heat on Sunday and had a girly day out on the beach.

Monday arrived and that meant an early rise because school registration starts at 8.30 and because of early morning traffic, which meant we had to leave at 7.30. Monday however was a nice easy introduction day for me, simply two hours spent with the deputy head getting told all of the expectations of me and a little tour. The rest of the day was left for me to relax because the hard work would start the following day.

A Little Bit about the School

The school is situated on the western side of Auckland and it has been here for over 75 years and it has had a rich cultural background. Children from many ethnic backgrounds attend the school, which makes Owairaka District School an exciting and vibrant place to be. The school has a commitment to high academic standards and an expectation that all children will succeed. Schooling is an open partnership between parents, the child and the school.

I have a full timetable at the school which includes helping and teaching in all of the senior school music classes, reading with some children that require an extra bit of help, helping in some of the sports lessons, admin duties for staff and my own personal Mori lessons. It's a very intense week and incredibly exhausting but the children are such an inspiration to work with and each and every one of them shows so much appreciation for your work that I find it hard not to go searching for jobs to do when I get a spare five minutes in my day.

I have recently gone and got a henna design put on both of my hands. It's very pretty. Mehndi is the traditional art of henna painting in India. In Indian mehndi, a person applies designs traditionally to a woman's hands and feet. For particularly auspicious occasions, men apply mehndi as well. The most auspicious occasion warranting mehndi artwork is the Indian wedding, where both bride and bridegroom apply henna, as well as several members of the bridal party. Henna on any occasion symbolizes fertility.

This weekend has been pretty busy. With such fantastic weather on Saturday I took a trip up the Sky Tower. You can get an absolutely amazing view of the city and land around. I decided not to be really crazy and jump off the tower however I did take the opportunity to sit and have lunch at the top of the tower. After descending back down to earth I went to Auckland Museum where I attended their Maori culture show which was really interesting and is the main source for all the Maori information I wrote earlier. That evening there was the annual Diwali Indian Festival at the harbour. The day marks the homecoming of Lord Ram to his kingdom Ayodhya after the fourteen days of exile. And because the family I'm with are from India they asked me to join them for the celebration

Some Things That I've Already/Are Planning to Do Whilst I'm here

I'm getting the chance to work with the school ukulele group and help them compose a song to they can enter a competition. (I can now add ukulele onto my list of instruments I can play.) I'm going to start teaching them a little bit about Scottish music and the culture and traditions behind it.

Next weekend (Labour Weekend) I'm travelling to the Bay of Islands for three days. This is the most northern part of New Zealand.

At around about mid November I'm going to go down to Rotorua which is famous for its hot springs and hot pools.

I haven't decided when yet but I will go down to South Island- apparently that's where all of the Scots move to- and I will go and visit the main cities there; Christchurch, Nelson, Queenstown and Dunedin.

By the end of November I'm hoping to take about a four day break to go and visit my step sister and her husband in Adelaide, Australia. So that should be awesome.

December is a very busy month at school with summer Santa coming so lots of parties, concerts and organising to be done which is why I'm keeping December fairly free.

I hope this has kept you happily informed about my progress and you have enjoyed taking a little break to read this!

Sending happiness from the land of the long white cloud.

Gillian Davidson

An email from Gillian to Rachel at Travellers HO coming to the end of her placement:

Kia ora from down under!

As expected I haven't got the time to write another essay on what I've been up to but I thought I'd let you know briefly what has been going on and what I'm still planning on doing.

The first big news is that the ukulele group was one of the three unranked winners of the song writing competition and on the 2nd Dec we are going to a recording studio with the other two schools to record our song! The kids were elated by the news.

The biggest change to me over the past few weeks is that I got dreadlocks. I know it might seem quite drastic but I've actually been wanting them for about a year now and couldn't resist! :) I started my recorder group which is going really well and we are now preparing to play at one of the end of term concerts.

This weekend has been fairly hectic, I've been at the schools cultural festival and then the music teacher and I went to the ukulele festival where I got my souvenir ukulele to take home and I met the Jimmy Hendricks of the ukulele.

And here's what I'm filling my last three weeks with:

  • On Thursday I'm going over to Australia for 6 days to visit my half sister in Adelaide which I'm really looking forward to.

  •  Then on the Tuesday I get back I'll be going to the recording studio with the uke group.

  • Manpreet is then having a party at the house that weekend so that will certainly keep me busy.

  • And then I'm already into my final week and so I will probably meet up with Annette and reflect on the project.

  • Then on the Saturday before I leave there is a festival called 'Christmas in the Park' which I think we are all going to go to ...

  • and then I start my return journey the following afternoon. 

I've truly enjoyed what I have experienced so far and I will make sure that in the little time I have I will continue to fill it with even more exciting things.

Hope this keeps you informed. Thanks.

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