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Environment, travel good mix for Jessie

Wairarapa College student Jessie Caldwell is in Thailand surveying the coral reefs. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Wairarapa College student Jessie Caldwell is doing her bit for the planet this summer.

The 17-year-old is passionate about travel and the environment and on December 6 left the country for Ao Nang, Thailand, where along with two other international volunteers she planned to spend two weeks surveying reefs, organising a beach clean-up and planting mangroves.

“In the first week we get our cultural awareness talks, we get our international PADI dive certificates and we dive and take recordings of our findings of the coral reefs and populations of marine life,” she said.

The information is sent back to a marine reserve in Phuket.

“The other thing we do is a community beach clean-up which our group has to organise.

“And we get all these people down to the beach and collect all the cigarette butts and plastic from the beach and we take those to the schools, and we show the kids how much we’ve just found.”

Caldwell said she’d caught the travel bug early on and wanted to combine it with her passions for diving and looking after the environment.

“I’ve always wanted to travel but because of my age it’s a bit of a problem,” she said.

“I found the course online two years ago and I just kept putting it off but at the start of this year I decided no, I’m just going to do it.”

The trip was entirely self-funded by Caldwell through a part time job at KFC and selling products at the Masterton and Wellington markets.

Initially she sold wheat packs at the markets, but her product range diversified to lavender bags, bath salts, and plants.

“A lot of people will come up to me and say ‘hey I think this is a really good idea what you are doing’ and they’ll give me a gold coin – I had one lady who gave me $10.

“A former WaiCol student who ran the Wellington Market let me set up a couple of times and didn’t charge me. I’d just like to say thanks to everyone who helped out.”

Her advice for younger students thinking about doing something similar was to put in the time and effort.

“But at the same time, you can always ask for help. Basically don’t give up and think of other options.

“A lot of people my age don’t want to get a job but even if it’s just a couple of days a week that’s still some kind of money that you could put towards going places.”

Caldwell is about to enter year 13.

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