Wwoofers dig in with Bunny Rabbitts
WWOOF means Willing Workers On Organic Farms, and wwoofing is the key to affordable travel for those with an interest in the environment, often to exotic countries experiencing different cultures at a grass-roots level.
Sisters Abby and Natalie Wallwork are visiting from Manchester, UK and are wwoofing around Australia starting with the Tweed area and staying with hosts Bunny and Fran Rabbitts at Fingal Head.
The idea started in England in 1972 when the first wwoofers, mainly city dwellers, spent weekends helping on organic farms in exchange for their food and accommodation.
Due to demand the organisation was formed and today there are more than 50 wwoofer groups worldwide including France, Switzerland, Spain, India, Asia, South America, the US, Canada and most popular, Australia and New Zealand.
Abby's first experience of volunteering was at a kibbutz in Israel, working on an irrigation project with an expert in this field.
"It was impressive to see what could be achieved in such an arid landscape," Abby said. "The kibbutz area was like a vibrant green oasis in the middle of the Negev desert."
The experience gave her the first taste of the simple pleasure of helping things grow.
This led to other similar opportunities and she joined the Wwoof organisation.
In Italy Abby travelled and wwoofed for eight months, the work ranging from helping at a yoga institute to harvesting olives.
This time the sisters are travelling together and have volunteered through India and SE Asia and are now in Australia, this time to gain specific experience of hands-on habitat regeneration coastal work.
They chose Fingal Head because of the combined forest/dune restorations, volunteering with Fingal Head Coast Care and also working on a conservation rainforest property in Murwillumbah.
Abby said, "I am so impressed with the strong committed community involvement, especially at Fingal, where degraded coastal land has been restored and is now a shady forest, " she said. "I'm coming back in January for further research for a PhD on the success of Fingal regeneration and the role strong continuing community support has made."
For them the wwoof experience is much more than just a work exchange, it can be an exchange of cultures, language, creativity and ideas and a chance to live and experience life as a local, getting off the tourist trail and interacting with families and communities.
"Here at Fingal I am woken by bird calls, eat breakfast overlooking the lagoon; help out on the reafforestation project in a gorgeous sub-tropical setting, then hit the beach for the afternoon."