Bouncing forward

On a cold, sunny Wednesday morning, the University of Canterbury hall is buzzing with students attending a Winter Wellness event. Amidst cold house improvement tips and blood pressure measurements, the Bounce.org.nz stall stands out. 

Bounce volunteers and twins Eleanor and Annabel Hurton invite the students to scribble their best well-being tip on a post-it note, then plaster it to a board. It’s an easy, effective way to get the students thinking about positive well-being practices they can implement in their own lives.

The Bounce Tips are Know Yourself, Treat Your Body Well, Keep Doing What You Love, Make A Difference, and Connect With Others. The board is filling up fast and by lunchtime it’s overflowing.

After the Canterbury earthquakes, a lot of projects were set up to help the recovery of different sectors of the public, but psychosocial messaging for young people was a hole that needed to be plugged.

So Red Cross stepped in, creating the positive and proactive Bounce project, that encourages young people to “live life well”.

Young people have been at the core of Bounce’s kaupapa since its origins. It was young people who adapted the health sector’s “Five Ways to Well-being” into the Bounce Tips, using language that would resonate with other young people and offer them diverse perspectives with which to think about their well-being.

“Bounce uses a strength-based approach specifically for young people,” says volunteer Isabella Garbett. “Well-being means, and looks likes, different things to different people and they are all equally valid.”

Now, the team of 12 passionate volunteers are attending events such as the University of Canterbury’s Winter Wellness event, have a website and active social media presence on facebook and instagram, and run workshops for both schools and youth groups in order to spread their message. The name “Bounce” comes from the group’s belief that recovery from any disaster, major event, or even day-to-day stress is not about bouncing back to the way things were: it’s about bouncing forward and going into new spaces feeling better equipped and more resilient than ever before.

Bounce’s 12 volunteers, all between 13-21 years, are all living and breathing the five Bounce Tips themselves.

“It’s really important that we do not isolate ourselves, especially when we’re struggling,” says Eleanor. “I have a tendency to shut people out when I’m upset or stressed and the Bounce ‘Connect With Others’ tip is a good reminder that it’s okay to reach out for support.”

“I feel that sometimes youth lose sight of what they love to do and instead do the things that seem more important for their future,” says volunteer Jorja Tater. “But when you find what you’re passionate about, I say go. You will be a hundred times happier.”

The volunteers are certainly taking the ‘Connect With Others’ tip to heart and the term ”second family” comes up several times when they talk about their fellow Bounce mates.

“Bounce is more than a volunteer group,” Annabel says. “It’s a network of dedicated and beautiful souls willing to put others first.”

Watching the Bounce team, they are definitely connecting and making a difference to the lives of young people, not just in Christchurch, but across the earthquake-affected Hurunui and Kaikoura regions as well. Keep doing what you love, Bounce!