Volunteer Voices - "You can really feel connected to the community through volunteering." - Annie

Volunteer Annie Cervelli loves gardening and the kids at Wanaka Primary School are benefitting from it. “Gardening is very fulfilling and the Garden to Table Programme at the school is a way for me to contribute to the school community while doing something I enjoy.”

The kaupapa of the nationwide Garden to Table Programme is to empower children to grow, harvest, prepare and share great food. Member schools are provided with online resources to deliver the programme. Key themes are a “kids do everything” approach, empowerment, manaakitanga and food resilience.

A year ago a big community effort helped to get the Wanaka Primary school garden started and now it’s thriving.

Annie is a regular helper on Monday and Wednesday lunchtimes. “The enthusiasm of the kids is inspiring. I love seeing them being joyfully engaged in the garden.” Complementing the garden, the school also has an orchard, complete with beehive, to help build food resilience within the community.

A connection to the environment and a desire to grow things are in Annie’s blood. “My Dad was an agronomist and Mum studied agricultural science before having kids. She can grow anything!”

A geologist, Annie met her future husband Dan, while volunteering at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. For 12 years prior to moving to Wanaka the couple lived in California, where they had three children. Annie says “It was a positive choice to return to New Zealand and live in Wanaka. We love the easy access to the mountains, and the uncrowded, outdoor lifestyle”.

When moving to new places, volunteering has been a good way for Annie to meet people. She found Wanaka and the school to be very welcoming. “Even though Wanaka is growing, it’s still small so you can really feel connected to the community through volunteering.”

Annie also helps with the PTA. She says “With school aged children, this is a good place to put my energy right now.”

Annie says “The Garden to Table project is great fun, and we are all learning as we go. Volunteers are welcome and there’s always something to do. Whether it’s helping during school time, or ongoing watering and maintenance in the holidays, the garden always needs caretakers.”

Written by Juliette Hicks, 2023

If you'd like to volunteer with Wanaka School Garden to Table Programme contact Debbie Kay at debbiek@wanaka.school.nz