Many people opt to spend their holidays somewhere warm doing as little as possible.

Five Spanish teenagers, however, have given up their summer break at home to spend a month volunteering in wintertime Northland as tree planters, weeders and op shop helpers.

The young women, aged 15-19, are on a cultural exchange which started with a week of sightseeing in Auckland and Rotorua, followed by a week of wwoofing (short for "willing workers on organic farms") at Takou Bay and a week of volunteering in Kerikeri.

In that time they packed gift bags for the charity Foster Hope, planted 310 trees with the Friends of Wairoa Stream, and spent a day weeding at Edmonds Ruins with the South Kerikeri Inlet Landcare group.

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They also spent two days gardening at Rewa's Village at Kerikeri Basin, sang in te reo Māori at the opening of a new classroom block at Kerikeri Primary School, and sorted donations for Hospice Mid Northland's op shops.

This week the Barcelona teens are attending Kerikeri High School.

Spanish volunteers at work at Rewa's Village in Kerikeri, from left, Jana Subirana, 18; Marta Ramio, 19; programme coordinator Alyson Craig; Maria Costa, 19; Claudia Andres, 15; and Clara Andres, 15. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Spanish volunteers at work at Rewa's Village in Kerikeri, from left, Jana Subirana, 18; Marta Ramio, 19; programme coordinator Alyson Craig; Maria Costa, 19; Claudia Andres, 15; and Clara Andres, 15. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Clara Andres, 15, said they wanted to practise their English while "investing our time to make the world better".

Her twin, Claudia, said they lived in a large, polluted city, "so we are not used to working in the natural environment and doing things to support society, nature and trees".

Jana Subirana, 18, said the aim of the trip was to learn about New Zealand culture and help the country.

"We are not just doing tourist things. We are learning about native trees, we are going to people's houses, we are putting everything into action. It is much more enriching for us, it makes us grow," she said.

The exchange's Kerikeri coordinator, Alyson Craig, said locals had responded "really well" to her call for volunteer projects the teens could contribute to.

"These girls are giving back to the country while they are here. It's not all about sightseeing and having ice creams," she said.

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