Couch-surfing while juggling a job and studies might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Rodney Martin’s unique fundraising idea for the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) brings plenty of variety to his life.

The 25-year-old Otago University student first came up with the couch-surfing idea while in between flats in January 2018.

“My friend was housesitting at the time so I moved in and slept on a mattress. I thought why don’t I couch-surf for the whole year and put money towards something meaningful while I’m at it?”

The Bachelor of Commerce student quickly realised the fun idea would result in surplus cash that he could contribute to raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing in New Zealand.

“I thought I’d have a crack at doing my bit. I know people who experience mental illness. If they don’t have good mental health, then other good things in life stop feeling so great.”

Rodney, who has raised over $4,000, is donating $150 each week to the MHF on what he would normally spend on a flat, including rent and power. 

So far in 2018, he has slept on 12 couches and has been hosted mostly by fellow university students in quintessential Otago flats. 

“I’ve slept on the couch of a flat of 12 and a flat of 10. This morning I left a flat of eight and I’m moving into a flat of six tonight.”

He couch-surfs mainly in Dunedin, but also had a stint in Christchurch and stays in huts, tents or spare rooms when he goes away hunting.

The challenge isn’t too hard for Rodney, although he admits you need a positive approach and a willingness to just “give it a crack”.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve met new people and I got to know friends much better in the process. It’s actually really refreshing to go back to a different flat every night.

“A lot of people are telling me they couldn’t ever do this, but I’m now at the point where I’ve forgotten what I’m doing isn’t actually that normal,” he laughs.

Since starting his year of couch-surfing, Rodney says friends and strangers have spoken to him about their own experience with mental illness. 

“I’m not surprised at the amount of people opening up to me. I know a high percentage of New Zealanders experience a mental illness each year.”

Rodney hopes to raise up to $10,000 by the end of the year.

Photo credit: Banner photo by Alistair Paterson on Flickr, shared via a Creative Commons licence. View original photo