Our Stories: Issue 67
The Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits & Education Centre (TOPEC) provides outdoor and environmental learning opportunities to young people from 5 to 25 years. The centre is based on the banks of the Waiwhakaiho River. Aiming to connect people to their environment, TOPEC's activities allow individuals and groups to challenge themselves and develop new skills and confidence.
Christine ‘Grover’ Worsfold, Director, said the courses flow from primary school introduction to the outdoors with River Safe and Bush Safe, through to Experiential Camp weeks for junior secondary students. NCEA courses involve survival skills, risk management and leadership, while there are also tertiary transition NZ Certificate courses at Level 3 and Level 4. “Experiential education activities, like rock climbing, caving or rafting, teach people a lot about themselves and others. It is about the resilience and social development that comes from taking on safe outdoor challenges."
Prior to applying for funding, Grover said the biggest challenge for the organisation had been not having enough qualified outdoor instructors to be able to deliver effective programmes. A grant of $77k from TSB Community Trust enabled more of the local community to access these programmes. "Our values align with TSB Community Trust because we are all about developing community connections in Taranaki," Grover said. “Without the grant, we would have had to charge more for our programmes. Equally, we can continue to offer cost-effective personal development, outdoor and environmental education because we have the funding to employ top quality instructors." “Through the centre, we teach young people to look after themselves and others.
We help them make safe decisions in the outdoors, promote sustainability and inspire kaitiakitanga and respect for the environment," Grover said. Over 3000 primary and high school students came through TOPEC's programmes in 2020.