It is hard to even begin to summarize my experience because I think every aspect of it was truly amazing. I have never left the North American continent, so heading over to New Zealand was a big trip for me. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I loved being there. We had a random day off in Auckland which does not normally happen, but I was glad because I did not go on the Adventure Tour and had a chance to explore an urban part of New Zealand. I would recommend going on the adventure because everyone I know who did had a really great time, but I was perfectly okay with just volunteering. I, personally, wanted to go to New Zealand for the purpose of volunteering.
Most of our time was spent on the marae. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. It was such a treat to wake up in the morning and be in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The work was totally fine. Leaders were accommodating to each person's individual ability and it truly was not that difficult of a task. After the first day or so you get the hang of it and you move right along. It is really nothing to be worried about and it helps knowing that you are planting trees for a purpose. I cannot lie and say I loved every second of planting, but on the whole, I did enjoy doing it especially because it was going to make a difference in the environment and in the lives of the people who lived there. There are also a few off days, which were great for exploring. One off day we went on a hike and the other one was spent in a town called Paihia doing a variety of things.
I enjoyed doing the chores we had to do because I learned a few skills in the kitchen and how to maintain a fire. We were separated into groups and rotated chores daily (chores did not take very long to do and were never hard). There is a huge sense of learning to rely on other people and community through this. Food was always really good, sleeping arrangements were interesting (because it is basically a massive sleepover for two weeks- everyone is in the same room. I would not have wanted it any other way.), and bathroom facilities were great. There is no electricity, but a generator is used at night for dinner until bed and then turned on in the morning to wake everyone up and to make breakfast (lunch was packed for the workday at breakfast-time, but don't worry-snacks were available during downtimes). You will definitely need a good flashlight.
I live in a city, so going out into rural New Zealand and living on a farm for two weeks was an incredibly enlightening experience. I especially loved the farm dogs.
But not only were we planting trees to better the environment, the experiences we had helped us better ourselves. I learned so much about Maori culture and the family whose land we were living on are probably the nicest people I have ever met. They were all so welcoming and made you feel right at home. Take advantage of after-work tea time.
I was fully immersed into a situation I had never, in the slightest, been in before, and it was the best decision I ever made.