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NZ youth need voyages ‘more than ever’ after COVID

The CEO of one of the country’s leading youth charities says after more than two years of Covid-19 disruptions and lockdowns many young people are feeling lost and frustrated.


Bruce Pilbrow, CEO of the Spirit of Adventure Trust, says the disruption to schooling - an important place for social development and for young people to connect with their peers - has resulted in many feeling disillusioned, and that they have missed out on an important chunk of their lives.


“We’re seeing heightened anxiety and a lot of frustration in some young people at the moment,” Pilbrow says.



“We shouldn’t underestimate the impact the last two years has had on our rangatahi, they have missed out on so much and have had to adjust to a very different world.”


He says opportunities like the Trust’s youth development voyages are needed now, more than ever.


“Our youth development voyages can work as a kind of circuit-breaker for some young people, a social leveller that broadens horizons and exposes young people to a wide social network,” Pilbrow says.


“We know that the power of the ocean does something magical to a young person. It might be just confidence, or the ability to do something you thought you never could, or simply believing in yourself.”


“The core of it is the challenge of the sea, and we see that it has the power to transform the lives of young people.”


The charity has been running youth development voyages around New Zealand’s coast for almost fifty years, and in that time has taken more than 88,000 young New Zealanders to sea.


“More than ever, we need to ensure young people get access to these kinds of life-changing opportunities.”

“We shouldn’t underestimate the impact the last two years has had on our rangatahi, they have missed out on so much and have had to adjust to a very different world.”

Bruce Pilbrow, CEO, Spirit of Adventure Trust





Each year the Trust brings 1200 young people from diverse backgrounds together on the Spirit of New Zealand, its 45-metre square-rigged sailing ship.


The Trust is funded through charitable donations and grants, including from the ANZ Staff Foundation – which recently awarded the Trust $15,000 to help eight young people join the programme.


“Having ANZ come on board makes massive difference for us,” Pilbrow says.


“It helps us level the playing field and means that any young person in New Zealand, regardless of cost can get on the Spirit of New Zealand - so it really opens it up to everyone.”


One of those who benefitted from the recent grant was 16-year-old Cejn Pohio, from near Ruatoria, in East Coast/Tairāwhiti.


He heard about the voyages after his cousin went on one, and after an initial delay, due to Covid, was able to be a part of Voyage 840, which sailed from Auckland on April 9, 2022.


“There's no words to describe how mean it was - a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Cejn says.


“I've come back to land with lots of new skills and heaps of new friends. I’ve come out of my shell more, opened up to people - I’ve overcome my fears and now I’m more trusting.”


“I know now it's possible to do a lot of things that I thought I couldn't.”


While the pandemic halted voyages for a period, they have now resumed, with another seven ANZ-supported trainees due to join the ship in the coming months.


“What happens on the ship really does make difference, and I see our grants as not only helping these young people reach their full potential, but also as an investment in our future as a nation,” says David Bricklebank, Chair of the ANZ Staff Foundation.


Since inception in 2000, the ANZ New Zealand Staff Foundation has distributed over $8 million in community grants to more than 920 charities and community projects nationwide.


“When we get a grant to help a young person come on a voyage, I know it'll make a difference to them – it will change their life,” Pilbrow says.


“But who knows, it might just be what it takes for that young person to become a future prime minister of New Zealand - that’s certainly a possibility.”


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