Thinking Outside the Box: An Interview with Ben Bridle

20 July 2017

Moving to Auckland to study digital animation and film from a small town in the Waikato provided Ben Bridle (20) with the motivation to seek out ways of connecting with new people.

Embracing the idea of becoming a volunteer, he chose RainbowYouth as the lucky recipient of his time – a win-win for everyone.

Ben Bridle

Ben Bridle

“Getting involved with RainbowYouth gave me a home away from home and opened me up to a bunch of new opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise found. I didn't know very many people in the city at the time and I thought that volunteering would be a great way to meet people, so I signed up to be a volunteer intern,” says Ben.

He began his volunteering journey when RainbowYouth put out the call for help moving premises. He stepped up to help run the drop-in centre and also put his graphic design skills to good use by creating design themes and posters for a number of RainbowYouth events.

Realising that there was an interest around an outdoors-oriented group, he decided to combine his love of nature with volunteering and established ‘Outside the Box’, an activity-based peer support group. He was able to draw on his experiences from being involved in scouting when he was younger.

“Instead of meeting up every week at the centre like the other groups, we go on an adventure every week or two and get ourselves out and about around the city or further away. We've hiked up mountains, jumped around at trampoline parks, had picnics, gone camping in the outdoors, and challenged ourselves with escape rooms. One thing that attracts people to the group is that they find it easier to meet new people by doing something together, rather than sitting down and talking,” says Ben. 

Outside the box in action

Outside the Box in action

The initiative has gone from strength to strength and one of the things he’s most proud of is organising the overnight camp at the end of last year which was a huge success.

“We hiked three hours to a hut, camped overnight, and woke up at 5:00am the next morning to climb a mountain and watch the sun rise over the Coromandel.”

You can watch a short highlights video of the trip here:

Ben recently moved to Hamilton to start his first full-time job as a 3D artist for a game studio and he’s keen to look at introducing ‘Outside the Box’ to his new home town.

His volunteering efforts were recognised in April this year, when he received a Change Maker Award (LGBTI) at the Minister for Youth’s New Zealand Youth Awards 2017. He was delighted to be acknowledged.

“It was an amazing honour to be a recipient of a New Zealand Youth Award, and it really opened my eyes up to how valuable your volunteering can be for other people,” he says.

He has this advice for other young people thinking about giving volunteering a go:

“If you're keen to volunteer, go for it! Volunteering is an amazing way to get to know people, make new friends, find new opportunities, and help your community out. Have a look around at any volunteering opportunities that are available to you, or offer to help out at a group or organisation that you're interested in.”

We asked Ben his opinion around the greatest opportunities and challenges facing young people today. Not surprisingly, his answer is linked to encouraging young people to embrace the benefits of leaving behind their digital devices and spending some time outdoors.

“I think that the greatest opportunities and the greatest challenges both revolve around the same thing, which is computers and the internet. The internet is such an amazing resource for communication and access to information, but it also encourages young people to stay indoors and be less adventurous in their day-to-day lives. It's great to get outside and away from computers and cell phones every now and then and get some fresh air, move around, and see the world around you.”

Outside the box in action

Outside the Box participants enjoying their time together

That’s sensible advice we should all pay attention to. It’s great to see this resourceful young man combining his interests for the good of his peers. We’re looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next!