Claudia Hillyer’s Story

 Ko wai ahau? 

 It’s a question that has resonated with me since I left high school. In my hands I had an empty basket, with motivation and potential to see it filled. I am a tertiary student with a passion for indigenous development and cultural sustainability. The idea of contributing to society in a meaningful way is one that I find myself continuously investing in. As a young woman at the beginning of her life career, this question does resonate in my mind.

Where do I start, and what is the future I want to see?  

Just as Hoturoa sighted a new beginning from aboard Tainui, I had my first glimpse of the Untouched World Foundation (UWF) in my first year of tertiary education. This being a week long programme coordinated on Oruawairua, Blumine Island. Located at the prow of Te Waipounamu, the South Island, I went along really only knowing one thing: that I knew nothing. Of what was to come at least. I had only in my possession a rourou, this basket that I was eager to fill. When I arrived with a team of like-minded rangatahi to this backyard paradise, we were unleashed into a whole new way of learning. There was no schedule to follow, no set programme, but we all were free to share what our passions were and from that determine what we wanted to achieve by the end of the week.  


The moments that most strongly resonate with me are the times I saw this group who hardly knew each other, putting their heads together to share experiences and talk about what a sustainable future could look like.


Socially, environmentally, politically, economically and culturally. No idea was a bad idea, and this mindset and openness to ideas was invaluable in building confidence, and so it found a perfect space in my basket. Exhausting days of tramping, wananga, track clearing, bird monitoring, swimming, weka shooing, and cooking proved to mean a lot more than just hard labour, but with each mission came a new-found feeling of reward, and new skills acquired. It is from the concept of experiential learning I have learnt about over my journey with the UWF that I begin to understand why it is we obtained so much from these self-led activities.

Times like clearing walking tracks, baking in the sun, and with each hack at this rock fall all I can hear are young people all down the track pouring out their hearts through their minds. Each day brought new challenges, with each new challenge it brought an urgency to find solutions and to think critically, and with this a small part of my rourou was being filled. 

I was honoured to be selected for a UWF pilot Advanced Leadership Programme (ALP) this year. I joined 14 other people with various connections to the Untouched World Foundation and spent a weekend at Mount Aspiring, where we collaborated ideas and discussed the promotion and development of existing programmes. This ALP opened my eyes and my mind, and offered opportunities both locally and internationally to voice our ideas, and to see results around issues that will shape our future. 

Ko wai ahau?

He uri ahau nō Aotearoa.

I am a rangatahi from New Zealand, and a citizen of the world.

I, like the rest of my generation, am on a path carrying along with me a rourou that I choose to fill with experiences that foster me from step to step, and the opportunities and life skills the Untouched World Foundation has presented me with will always be ensconced in my basket.

Claudia Hillyer

Claudia Hillyer