By Poppy Jenkinson

My time at A Rocha was quite brilliant.

After finding out that I didn’t get into my first choice of uni, I was disappointed but excited to take a gap year (I’m one of the first in my family and friends to take one, which felt strange – I’m a bit of a sheep so this was a big thing for me!), but all the same excited to see where God would take me.

I came to A Rocha for the Winter/Spring internship term and crikey, it was so, so amazing.

I worked with the two Environmental Education gurus, Ruth Des Cotes and Shai Kroeker. ‘Work’ including leading school groups into the forest, garden and pond where we shared the wonder of God’s amazing creation. We also planned and baked for groups, painted signs and created new activities. This variety meant every day was a little bit different. I have grown in confidence when leading groups and learnt to ‘let go’, allowing children to explore off the paths in the forest and off the decking to the banks of the pond: letting children be free to explore for themselves.

Whilst here at A Rocha I have learnt:

How fun education can be. I have always believed that the best education is achieved in the outdoors, but here I’ve really seen it in practice and seen the benefits and joy children experience when exploring the natural world. Highlights for me must be seeing kids’ excitement when they find a cool bug or tadpole, or even a fish in the pond. I also loved seeing the children laughing at the noisy geese and tasting organic veg picked before their eyes right from the garden (to which one child exclaimed, “This is better than chocolate!”).

How important morning prayer is. Anyone who stays at the Brooksdale Centre is invited to participate in the daily morning prayer time. Spending that 20 minutes each morning with other interns, staff and guests really influenced my day. As a result I have felt more connected to God and experienced more peace as I started the day. I will be definitely taking the practice home with me.

I never realised the importance of seasonal eating, and how simple it can be! We ate such a range of meals from the same veg in the garden – primarily beets! Before coming, I wasn’t a big fan of beetroot, but I can assure you that there is nothing quite like the A Rocha beets – they are so tasty, even when you are having them in almost every meal.

How wonderful community living can be. I’ve always been part of a church community and enjoyed it. But the A Rocha community goes even further because we are living on the same ground, sharing daily life and enjoying the delicious food (cooked straight from the garden) with friends and neighbours every evening – it’s quite special.

Whilst interning at A Rocha Brooksdale, I’ve loved how simple and peaceful living here has been. The woodland, river and farmland bring joy; just being surrounded by the natural beauty and space has allowed me to breathe and recalibrate from the busy lifestyle I find at home. A small favourite of mine has just been walking to and from the guesthouse for mealtimes, morning prayer, teachings, music and games. The 30 second walk gave me a chance to enjoy creation and re-center as I reflected briefly on what I had just come from (which could be anything from a forest walk with grade six kids to ‘toast parties’ with the other interns).

Overall, I would call my experience here an adventure filled with absolute peace and joy. I hope that when I go home I can share what I have learnt with friends, family and my church too!