Giving Service and Forging Connections in Whakatane

April 07, 2021 at 1:48 PM

Since 2015, the Boys’ School and Girls’ School have combined to take part in 12 student and parent trips to Fiji and Vanuatu, offering dedicated service to chosen Pacific Island communities. Last year, due to the travel restrictions around Covid-19, the first ‘Kiwi Service Trip’ to Te Kura Akonga O Manurewa took place. With the success of that trip, and the ongoing restrictions on international travel, this year they once again focused their efforts within New Zealand. Prior to Easter, two consecutive trips were organised to Taneatua School and Hughes Garden in Whakatane. The school and gardens had been chosen in partnership with Presbyterian Support Northern, who fund social workers in school communities of high economic and social need throughout New Zealand. These were two communities who had expressed a desire for help.

The trips had originally been planned for March 2020, the historic month that we went into our first lockdown, so there was much excitement when the boys and girls finally got on the road!

Taneatua School for Years 1-8 has a roll of 148 students. Two classes are taught in Te Reo and the rest of the school are taught 50% in Te Reo and 50% in English. Nearby, the Hughes Community Garden is an initiative of the Presbyterian Church. Established by Rev Tamihana and Honey Thrupp, the garden operates as a Foodbank, a garden to table project, a community library and a space for mothers and preschoolers to meet and draw support from each other.

Prior to the trips, Chaplain to the Schools, Rev Reuben Hardie, along with parent and project coordinator, Stacy Colyer, met with Marama Davidson, the Principal of Taneatua and Honey Thrupp from Hughes Garden to hear about the respective needs of their communities and consider ways that Saint Kentigern could help.

After much planning, in mid-March a group of 23 keen Year 8 students and their parents headed to the Bay of Plenty, followed a week later by a second group of 20 students. Sleeves were rolled up and over the course of two weeks, an outdoor classroom was established under a gingko tree, 51 bollards were installed down the school driveway, a large shaded area was weeded, two school adventure playgrounds were refurbished and a fairy circle of recycled tree stumps and fairy paths was created. At Hughes Garden, the group installed a junior playground, outdoor furniture and five raised planter boxes. As well as the physical work, our students, parents and staff engaged and built relationships with the communities and students that we were seeking to serve. Our students spent lunch time playing basketball and joining in games and exercises with the students, and worked together forming great friendships.

Service organisations have shown that outside groups can provide communities with resources, encouragement and impetus to work towards a better future. It is hoped that our own students will gain personally from the experience as they learn first-hand what it means to be of service to others and, hopefully, will be empowered to become ‘difference-makers’ on a broader scale.

We look forward to an ongoing relationship between our two communities and plans are already in place for their staff to visit.

Our thanks to teachers Mark Fitness, Sam Mackerall, Candace Cassie, Chris Hansen, Raewyn Ho and Natalie Cassidy, along with the many parents who made these trips possible for our students. Our sincere thanks to the amazing group of parents who cooked breakfasts, made lunches and dinners for the two teams! And a special thanks to our new-found friends in Whakatane for being so welcoming.

The last words go to our students:
What I enjoyed the most was helping the kids at the school and then seeing the joy on their faces at the end. I liked working together as a team because we shared the workload. I have learnt that I come from a really privileged background and am lucky to have all the things I have. Overall I have learnt that completing a challenging task makes you feel really good on the inside and a bit sore on the outside.

Now I think that an important part of service is all about helping people in need that are close to home. So, we don’t need to go on a plane to help them as there are people in our own country who are in need. I also think that it is important to ask the community what they need and work with them in partnership.
Archie Kersey, Year 8 

The challenges for me were lifting mountains of dirt in tarps down the hill, and hours and hours of raking and hauling out weeds. But I came to learn how kind the school was to us and how they wanted to help us, even though we were meant to be helping them The experience shaped my understanding of service because I realised how much fun helping others is and how I would want to do it again. 
Charlotte Horne, Year 8

I definitely learnt a lot from this trip like how to persevere when things get tough, planning is important, how to use sandpaper properly and most of all understanding the importance of service. This experience truly shaped the way I understand service because I got to experience the excited reactions of the school and community and how appreciative they were, which made me feel like all our hard work was worth it. I was also surprised by how much we completed in a short amount of time and how if we all work together, we can achieve so much which is a value I will treasure. 
Emily Cornaga, Year 8

Back to News List