2019 Camp

Rhiannon Russell, 26, Long Point, NSW
Senior Staffer/First Aid

Russell, Rhiannon CWW bio photo

Hello, I’m Rhiannon. I’m 26 years old and was home educated for most of my school life. I have three younger siblings and an adorable little nephew. I have attended several CWW camps as a camper and three as a Senior Staff member.

My interests include traveling, outdoor activities (especially ones involving ropes and cliffs), working with children, reptiles, different languages and cultures and helping others through eventually becoming a paramedic.

When I was 10 years old, out of curiosity, I started school and enjoyed years 5 and 6 at the local school. After eight weeks of high school, however, I returned to home schooling. I completed my year 10 equivalent and a cert. II in Animal Studies with the idea of becoming a herpetologist. I finished my high school studies with a year at a French High School and living with a host family. It was such an amazing year with plenty of travelling and meeting many amazing people. I also became fluent in French.

As a teenager I worked as a face painter, children’s entertainer and in hospitality. I completed a Cert. III in Outdoor Sport and Recreation. I recently spent two years living and working in London. I worked as a teaching assistant in many different primary schools and Special Needs High Schools throughout London. I also did plenty of travelling around Europe.

I have had the opportunity to see many aspects of education including home education, mainstream primary and high schools as both a student myself and also as a teacher’s aide. I especially loved working with Special Needs children as I found it so rewarding and fulfilling being able to help and guide them.

I was previously the Program Coordinator for Cataract Scout Park where I was responsible for organising and running school camps. This included hiring and training qualified outdoor activity staff, communicating with the organising school teachers to ensure all students are well prepared and looked after and ensuring all our activity standards were safe and up to date, completing risk assessments and writing Standard Operating Procedures for our site.

My dream for many years now has been to become a paramedic and eventually get into their rescue team, so that will be my next adventure.

I’m really looking forward to being a staff member again at CWW this year. I really enjoyed it as a camper because it is such a great place to meet other like-minded and interesting people. Some of my best friends are ones I met at this camp, despite living in Sydney. It’s also an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and also pass on your own skills and knowledge to others. I’m looking forward to sharing my skills and experiences with the other campers and having an awesome week.


Joe Willow, 27, Long Point, NSW
Group Leader

Joe camp photo

Hi there, my name is Joe. A long time ago in a town far, far away….

No actually it was just Pomona on the Sunshine Coast. Anyway I grew up there, and by that I mean I had lived there from 11 onwards. I have always lived with my mum, and I remember we moved around quite a lot, so I never really had a “home base” where I could build up a large group of friends, although what this meant was that I had a few really close friends throughout my childhood. I think my mum was always interested in home­-educating me because she had little faith in the schooling system. This resulted in an extraordinarily informal education without any real direct teaching, as she had little time (being a single mother and all) to teach me. What she excelled at tremendously was finding people who were masters in their respective field who were interested in mentoring me. This resulted in me being vaguely good at a few things like: pottery, woodwork, building barns out of straw bales and mud, meditating, qi gong and organising a library according to the dewey decimal system. However as I cannot recall in living memory ever having completed an exercise book of any sort, the “foundation” of most peoples education was almost completely lacking in my case. I have little to no clue about grammar, have never used a calculator for anything more complicated than arithmetic, and I don’t know much about the periodic table. Everything I know in those subjects I have learnt myself, simply by osmosis. While this can be quite crippling in regards to further study, I have discovered that what my mum taught me was simply this: She taught me curiosity. She gave me the tools and the mentality to find out, and to go and learn anything I wanted to.

I moved out when I was about 16 during which time I was a hairdressing apprentice. I discovered after about 2 years that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, so this meant change. I quit my job, did a 6 hour barista course, and moved to Canberra. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I learnt quite a bit from the whole experience. After about a year there of what felt like limbo, (if you’re not a public servant, in the defence force or a student of the ANU it doesn’t feel like you’re there for any real reason) I moved back to Brisbane to obtain a Certificate III in Adult Tertiary Preparation. I really really really loved it! I had never sat down to do any study whatsoever, and it ground me down but I loved it. I was going to keep going with it but at the end of the 2nd semester something happened. I got stuck without anywhere to live. I had two choices, stay in Brisbane, struggle through the rest of my course and then….? Or go to Far North Queensland to live in Cairns?! Lock in option B of course! So yeah I moved to Cairns with the full intention of picking up my study when I’d settled in. Yeaaaaaah that never happened, I got too stuck into life! I learnt to scuba dive, jumped out of a plane, ate sushi in Japan, started skateboarding to work and concentrated on pwning noobs. This wasn’t a particularly productive time in my life, although I am now a qualified AIN (yay go me I did some study!) for some reason.

Now I find myself in South­ West Sydney in a relationship with a beautiful woman who is teaching me to be a grown­up, and I have goals and plans and stuff now. So the next chapter of my life is yet to unfold…

I hope to see you at camp!

Mareena Clarke, 18, QLD

Junior Staffer

Hello! I’m Mareena, I’m 18 years old and this will be my 4th Camp with Wings (three as a camper, and now my first as a staffer). I grew up in Mackay, and began my home-schooling journey when I was eight, after being in the Steiner stream of a public school. At first my mum taught me in a very school-like way; we sat down every day at a desk with a blackboard and learnt from a curriculum. We gradually got into a more flowing style. I feel I needed that transition though as I find it hard to work without direction. We later joined Self Design and I moved into learning through my passions. I was not a fan of math as a child, but initially I learnt it through cooking, and went on to do the finances for a business for my high school math work. Anything arts related was, and still is, my strongest passion. We began moving to the Gympie area when I was eleven and had settled by the time I was twelve. I began volunteer office work with an organisation called SevGen when I was thirteen, which was a key turning point in not only my learning but my entire life. I was trained as a barista with that organisation and managed my own space there for some time, and my involvement with the people there brought me into myself in so many ways. I still now am involved with them as a trainer, contract worker, and recipe designer.

Another huge key turning point in my life was, in fact, Camp with Wings. I was very nervous before my first camp, which I attended when I was fifteen. When my mum first told me about it I was cautious, having been on the outside of so many groups before. I was used to sitting on the sidelines, feeling excluded, while others seemed to make friends so easily. I had made very few friends since leaving the ones I was brought up with. I was worried that a week wasn’t enough time for me to feel comfortable somewhere, and that I wouldn’t participate until the very end (and then regret it) as I have done so many times before. Luckily, that was not the case. I don’t think I’ve ever settled in with a group of strangers that quickly, and camp has deeply affected my life and personal development. I have a collection of small areas of knowledge in odd fields, thanks to my mum introducing me to many things and instilling a lifelong passion for learning in me so that I’d often go off and fixate on figuring out skills by myself, through reading or asking around. I learnt to meditate and pronounce long Sanskrit chants early in life, I’ve raised cows, cut scallop, created and run a business, and carved/hand built wooden toys.

I’m currently trying my hand at the academic world and my love of learning has been carrying me through that with joy. I’m one year into a degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast, which I got into after doing a year of a Headstart program. I still don’t know where I’m heading but I’m going along with what makes me happy. I live in a semi-rural area on seven acres, and have two dogs, a cat, and four cows (including one small new addition born on the property!). I love all animals very much. I love to read too, but this year has left little time or energy for it. A fun fact is that this took me a very long time to write because, while I have an endless talking mode, I usually forget most of my interests when trying to talk about me. I’m always up for a chat about anything, and I can’t wait to meet everybody at camp!

Nicole K. Orr, 28, Brisbane, QLD

Group Leader 

Why should you come find me at camp? It isn’t just because I’ll have an American accent. It’s because I’ll teach you the Cup Game, make a fool of myself trying to have an Australian accent, and tell you stories from my travels. What should you know about me besides the fact you should choose me as your leader in the zombie apocalypse? (I have mad shelter building skills and above terrible archery skills). It isn’t that I know so much about pop culture, 50% of the words out of my mouth are references. It also isn’t that I staffed Camp With Wings in 2015 as a cook in the kitchen with Joe.

I’ll break this down into four parts:

VOLUNTEERING: A great side effect of being unschooled my entire childhood was the opportunity to do a lot of volunteering. At first, I built homes for low-income families with Habitat for Humanity. With a Search and Rescue Unit, I took a team into the wilderness to retrieve lost, injured, or deceased people. I took an introduction to firefighting and almost became a police cadet. I worked at more than four summer camps, including helping out at Not Back to School Camp and at East Tennessee Unschooling Camp. I was a minor decoy for the police and was thus sent into bars to test their ability to properly check IDs before selling alcohol.

ODD JOBS: I wanted to begin traveling, so I took whatever jobs would put stamps in my passport. In my teens alone, I was a bartender at weddings, a dishwasher at a retirement home, a barista at a cafe, and a cashier at a Sizzler. After my teens, I sold cotton candy as a carny and I worked at a Starbucks in the airport. (I got to meet celebrities. Ask me which ones!) I was the manager of a non-profit dedicated to free speech and freedom of religion. I have worked at a strawberry selling booth, a pita booth, a hashbrowns booth, a smoothie selling booth, and spent six months helping manage a calamari booth in the West End just outside the Brisbane CBD. It was 2018 when I discovered my dream job and the odd jobs came to an end. The traveling, however, didn’t have to.

WRITER: I have written fiction since I was 12 years old. I have participated in National Novel Writing Month 11 years and have won every time. I even ran the local division here in Portland, Oregon/my part of the United States. In 2012, I started writing children’s nonfiction books for the Purple Toad Publishing House and now have more than 12 titles on Amazon for them. This helped bring in money while I traveled, but wasn’t enough to completely fund my journeys. That took discovering TypeWell. TypeWell is where I sit at my laptop. I Skype a deaf or hard of hearing student somewhere in the United States while they attend their class. I listen to their professor and type what I hear into my laptop. Those words are then streamed onto the student’s computer in an instant messaging window. With this new job, I could stop calling myself a telecommute employee and instead, a digital nomad.

DIGITAL NOMAD: (A person whose work is location independent) When I was 18, I started traveling. I got a job aboard a tourist railroad in Alaska as an assistant chef. I made a disastrous overnight trip to Japan. I stayed with a friend on the Big Island in Hawaii twice. I visited Hobbiton in New Zealand and I spent 10 days swimming in Bali. I lived in Brisbane twice, making side trips to Melbourne and Tasmania. I’ve made two trips up to Canada and I spent 10 days road-tripping Iceland. Up until 2018, I had to get jobs everywhere I traveled to or not stay there too long. Now I can work from wherever I am so long as the WI-FI Gods are with me. Come find me at camp!