Introducing the Toru Trail in Aotearoa

Join a learning community of practice!

Doris Zuur
Aug 9, 2018 · 7 min read

The Toru Trail is about hands-on teaching and learning from each other; involving willing hosts and eager interns; resulting in self-responsible and self-designed practical learning journeys throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

It is hosted by Toru Education, which stands for

  • providing experiential learning opportunities which nurture people, planet and spirit”, and
  • supporting and witnessing the authentic unfolding of each others’ unique life stories and the value of practical learning when pondering one’s next steps at a “What’s next?” moment.

Read more about Toru Education, its founding intention and story so far .

The key points of the Toru Trail are:

1. Focus on self-responsibility, intention and consciousness: The intern creates a self-designed practical learning journey, based on intentional questions (mini research projects). This is learning seen in its widest sense of meaning. We encourage journaling, creating portfolios or finding another fitting way to track the journey.

2. A longer mutual time commitment to allow for an enriching deepening of the experience (suggested minimum of one month).

3. The Internship Agreement describing mutual expectations of the host and intern, including agreed accountability for each others’ responsibilities and commitments. We hope this will promote clarity and a fair exchange of give and take.

We are excited about this trail being a chance to acknowledge each of us as learners and teachers, qualified by our own wisdom and unique experiences. We encourage learning from each other in ‘ako style’ (the Maori word meaning both ‘learning’ and teaching’).

We believe in the value of

  • “finding your ‘thing’ or ‘things’” (talent, passion, interest, work, place, relationships) through doing — getting your hands dirty!
  • inter-generational and inter-cultural learning;
  • seeing life as the classroom and life’s challenges as the curriculum.

The Toru Trail stands for an alternative to only ‘thinking about it’.

We from Toru Education believe that when we apply ourselves in practical ways and in natural environments, life’s questions begin to answer themselves.

The idea also comes from hearing the voices of participants on the last day of a permaculture course: “And now what?” “I wish to apply, experience, experiment and learn more about all this!”

‘Trailing’ could be a way of ‘integrating’, ‘obtaining more yield’ and taking a ‘practical first small step towards change’ (three examples of permaculture principles). Consolidating, experiencing and experimenting with new theories and ideas through practical applications.

It is also an intentional way of networking. A way of light-heartedly facilitating life’s miracles and synchronicities towards ‘just the right meet-up with the right people at the right moment”. Toru Education strives to connect and weave life’s many strands and facilitate the finding of one’s part in the huge tapestry of life.

Our wish is to reframe the pressures that come from expectations (of self, others, or society). We hope to provide some scaffolding (offering information, networking and guidelines for agreements)that allows interns to courageously explore ways of finding contentment and meaningful contribution, holding quesitions such as “What is true and meaningful for me?”,“What is my task?” and “What is my responsibility?”. We think these are helpful questions to consider as opposed to only those that focus on careeer, financial gain and acquisition of material possesions.

The Trail allows hosts to share their wealth of experiences and skills naturally gathered over the course of life. In return hosts can invite fresh tales, ideas and enthusiasm from wandering companions. Companion literally meaning ‘someone you share bread with’ in latin.

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On the simplest level, this trail hopes to be a way of learning life skills and having fun.

Who is the Toru Trail for?

The Toru Trail is open to:

  • Interns who wish to learn with intention, curiosity, respect and willingness to contribute;
  • Hosts who are willing to share their skills/experiences and who have interest in the interns’ journey.

Hosts and interns will have access to this network after they have assessed themselves to be a good fit with the principles of the Toru Trail (via some questions).

At the core of the Trail are parameters for exchanges: For example, accommodation and food in exchange for 4–6 hours work as defined in the Internship Agreements made by both parties.

There may be opportunities where the core barter exchange could vary:

  • specifically skilled interns could get paid for doing work required by the host, or
  • interns could pay their hosts for food and accommodation in exchange of less working hours if they want to focus more on their own projects.

This would require clarity for tax purposes.

We hope the incentive of the Trail is the immeasurable value of creating connections and exchanging knowledge, energy and perspectives.

Commitments and criteria of a host:

  • To describe a host profile on the Toru Trail Platform:

- background, values, culture, rhythms and routines,

- description of household members,

- type of accommodation offered,

- practical needs and expectations, including seasonal and other projects

- preferred minimum/maximum length of stay;

  • To host an intern with interest, care and a willingness to share knowledge and lifestyle;
  • To take the time to make an Internship Agreement with the intern, after a week’s trial, as a tool to nurture a healthy relationship;
  • To commit to review, assess, adjust or terminate the agreement, striving for a fair exchange and for sustainability as host (preventing hosting fatigue).

Commitments and criteria of an intern:

  • To describe an intern profile on the Toru Trail Platform

- life story, character, values, culture, skills, experience,

- practical needs and expectations,

- current project/questions/interests,

- previous Trail experiences.

  • To enter a host’s space with full respect and genuine intention to adjust to the host’s lifestyle, culture, values, rhythm and routines, and to contribute and to learn;
  • To take the time to make an Internship Agreement with the host, after a week’s trial, as a tool to nurture a healthy relationship;
  • To commit to review, assess, adjust or terminate the agreement, striving for a fair exchange and for sustainability as an intern (preventing intern fatigue).

The described commitments are self-assessed in an ongoing manner: both parties are invited to review each other, privately, and (if agreed) publicly on the Platform. These commitments and agreements are made in freedom and are situational. They are ethically and morally binding, but not legally binding. Either side may wish to leave the Toru Trail community, ideally once a commitment is honoured.

Internship Agreement principles:

The Platform will provide a template for Internship Agreements. In reality, the Agreements will vary greatly. The following applies to all:

Internship Agreement

  • Is drawn up as a draft by host and intern together, based on initial email conversations,
  • Includes a description of each other’s expectations and wishes and each other’s response to such expectations and wishes (includes financial expectations);
  • Includes a trial period of five days, followed by a check-in conversation, to confirm/adjust the expectations described in the draft Agreement;
  • Includes a description of the measurable exchange such as hours of work, food and sleeping arrangements;
  • Includes a number of statements (practices relating to health and safety, self responsibility, liability, healthy communication, honesty etc.).

Self-responsibility is a cornerstone value held by Toru Education.

Possible further developments:

  1. Cohorts of Trail-ers

Either initiated by journeying interns, or by Toru Education. This could include working together with chosen mentors on projects, for the purpose of support, encouragement and emerging friendships.

2. Toru Jams

Either initiated by interns (and promoted on the Toru platform) and/or initiated by Toru Education. These gatherings could be private or open to all. It could be of ‘open space’ format or it could be focused around a specific theme.

Toru jams will be meet-ups for experiential learners, hosts, alumnae and surely create many conversations!

The collaborative aspect will be important (not a delivered course that needs to be paid for) and the financing of such Toru Jams is worked through collectively by those who attend. The goal would be Fair Share at all times, and as open as possible to the emerging trailing community.

3. Trailing Tales

Blogs for hosts and interns to share stories, hints and tips for trailing.

Practical next steps

1. Aim to find about 20 hosts, by creating a Google doc data base with potential hosts; Trustees individually approach potential hosts;

2. The response of sufficient potential hosts will decide if this initiative can be launched or not;

3. Launch, celebrate and bless the Toru Trail at an internal Toru Trustees Jam on the 1/2 December 2018.

We are looking forward to connect with hosts and to let this initiative evolve and shape itself through feedback, questions and further ideas. Please ring us or write to us if you are interested in becoming a potential host or intern, (or if you want to recommend someone).

Doris Zuur and Emma Matthews, for the Toru Education Trust, 027–2811570, 027–6372015

Thanks to Emma Matthews

Doris Zuur

Written by

“Living it!” Permaculture, supporting authentic personal development, practical life skills and service. Taking time for what matters.

Doris Zuur

Written by

“Living it!” Permaculture, supporting authentic personal development, practical life skills and service. Taking time for what matters.

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