Celebrating Our Volunteer Heroes: Craig Jones - Outward Bound

Celebrating Our Volunteer Heroes: Craig Jones

Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu – National Volunteer Week honours the collective energies and mana of volunteers in Aotearoa. They grow our people, open minds, open hearts and create joy.

Volunteering has always been a core component of Outward Bound courses and as a charity, Outward Bound exists today only because of the generosity of those who have invested their time, energy and resources into our mission. As part of National Volunteer Week, we are excited to shine the spotlight on one of our long-serving volunteers, Craig Jones.

Craig's journey as a dedicated volunteer began in 2002 when he joined St. John Ambulance as a paramedic. He experienced a pivotal moment in his life in 2005 when he received a scholarship to attend a 21-day classic course at Outward Bound, an experience he describes as life-changing. This experience marked the beginning of his decades-long connection with Outward Bound. He was so inspired after his course that he quickly began gaining the qualifications needed to become an instructor. However, after much consideration, he decided to stay the course and continue his work with St. John’s.

In 2015, another scholarship enabled Craig to return for a Master’s Course, where he first learned about the opportunity to volunteer as a Support Worker on adapted courses. For Craig, this role perfectly blended his love for the outdoors with his passion for helping others, allowing him to maintain his career while immersing himself in the Outward Bound community.

Craig assisting an Activate student after a swim.

He attended his first course as a support worker in 2015 and has made it a point to come back every year since. “My volunteering is driven by my pursuit of happiness. Happiness has always been a key driver in my life and ultimately, being a support worker allows me to do cool stuff outdoors while helping others and that makes me really happy.

People often ask me, ‘You take annual leave from your paid job to go volunteer for a week?’ and I say ‘Yes!’ I plan my annual leave around volunteer opportunities at Outward Bound because there’s something special about this place that’s so unique. You really do feel like you are welcome. Not only do you get that feeling of community and family but you also get to do cool things in the outdoors, which I love.”

After volunteering on five courses, Craig has plenty of memories to last a lifetime but he has no hesitation when asked about his Outward Bound highlight as a volunteer support worker.

Craig (far right) helping an Activate student onto the jetty.

“A few years ago, we had a participant on course who used a wheelchair and he voiced his desire to have a go at the half-marathon towards the end of the course. As a keen runner myself, I was more than happy to assist. The road portion of the race was great and he was moving so quickly that I could hardly keep up! Towards the end of the course, the participants run along the Queen Charlotte track and wheelchairs and trails really don’t work well so it turned into a really good workout for me as I was essentially pushing his wheelchair for most of the trail. I was having a lot of fun and the participant was getting a lot of satisfaction out of completing the race.

The funny thing was that while we were racing, so many able-bodied participants were pulling out because of sore muscles or feeling like they couldn’t continue, and here we were, the two of us working together to complete the half marathon on difficult terrain. It was pretty cool.”

Craig assisting a student during the 21km half marathon.

Support workers are responsible for supporting and supervising participants during both activity and non-activity time. For Craig, his favourite activity to experience with participants is sailing. “It’s a real leveller, no matter what your intellectual or physical capabilities are. You don’t have to be a fast runner or really physically able to excel so you get to see students who may not be as capable, on the tiller, steering the cutter and doing an incredible job. Seeing the smile on their face is priceless!”

Craig and a student at the lookout spot during the 21km half marathon.

Learn more and get involved!

Volunteers like Craig play a crucial role in ensuring our adapted courses run smoothly and that all participants have a meaningful and fulfilling experience. Craig’s story is just one example of the incredible impact volunteers can have and if you could see yourself at Outward Bound as a support worker, we’d love to hear from you! We’re always on the lookout for more awesome humans to help us deliver our courses.

Our adapted courses typically run 6-8 days and require 2 support workers each. The support worker role is a voluntary role and there is no course fee to attend. Outward Bound will pay for your travel to and from your course after your enrolment is confirmed. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a volunteer worker, you can read more here.

Support workers assisting students during a morning swim.