Dame Margaret Karika was the Patron for Te Ipukarea Society from when the society was first formed in 1996, through to earlier this year.
When British conservationists David and Sarah Gordon read of her passing in the society’s newsletter, they decided to make a $10,000 donation to the work that Te Ipukarea Society does, in memory of Dame Margaret’s long service in support of the Cook Islands environment.
The Gordons stipulated that these funds were unrestricted, meaning we could use them for any purpose related to the work we do. After discussions with the society’s president, Ian Karika, and with the support of our eight-member executive committee, it was agreed to set $5000 aside to establish the Dame Margaret Karika Memorial Internship.
This is a paid position working alongside Te Ipukarea Society staff for a period of two to three months, and is open to young Cook Islands school leavers or university students with a keen interest in and passion for our Cook Islands environment.
After a transparent selection process, Chris Benson, who has just completed year 13 at Tereora College, has been selected as our first intern.
Chris has a strong background in science and is hoping to go on to university in 2018. He believes the practical work experience and mentoring that he will receive at Te Ipukarea Society will help him decide in which direction he would like his studies to go.
During this few months’ attachment Chris will work alongside Te Ipukarea Society project officers Alanna Smith and Liam Kokaua, as well as technical director Kelvin Passfield and finance manager Mary McDonald.
Chris will be helping maintain our scrapbooks of local news articles related to the environment. We have been collecting these for more than five years now and they are great source of information on the Cook Islands environment.
Chris will also help with our schools programme, in particular the monitoring of the GEF Small Grant funded waste management project, which has placed worm farms and compost bins into all Cook Islands schools. Although this project comes to an end at the end of 2017, we will be continuing school visits and training the next cohort of students in the maintenance and care of these valuable assets in 2018.
Chris will also get involved in our bird conservation work, including joining the team on mountain hikes in search of the elusive petrel seabirds that are sometimes observed around our cliff tops such as Maungatea Bluff.
Depending on funding, Te Ipukarea Society is hoping to make this internship in memory of Dame Margaret an annual opportunity for our young people.
We see it as a great way to not only educate our youth about environmental issues in the country, but also as a way to ensure we have new recruits who can work their way into a career in environmentalism and help ensure our fragile island ecosystem is well looked after in future.
We would like to again thank David and Sarah Gordon for their generous donation which has made this internship possible. We would encourage any young Cook Islanders with an interest in the environment to keep their eyes and ears open for future opportunities, or to just drop in to our office in Tupapa, next to Bamboo Jacks, and talk to us about what we do.
Wishing everyone all the best for a safe, healthy, and environmentally-friendly 2018!