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We do like you, Helen Dew

Aroha Castro Recio and Jonah Neubauer with their poems. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

Wairarapa children are putting on their planet-saving hats and dreaming up plans to help the earth, after the example set by noted Carterton environmental campaigner and champion Helen Dew.

Dew is the subject of a new children’s book called ‘Good For You, Helen Dew!’, jointly authored by Catherine Cooper and Ali Foster.

Children across the region were working on projects in the lead-up to the book’s launch next month.

Cooper said climate-activist Dew was a sustainability role model for all generations. The book was to help pass Dew’s message in an easy-to-understand way.

Dew helped set up the farmer’s market while running her own urban garden.

“She’s a big community person, and living economies like alternative currencies is another one of her things,” Cooper said.

“She has a very tiny section in town and she ripped up the whole lawn and turned everything into a productive garden. It’s a teaching garden. She teaches workshops
and composting.”

The book features a ‘Garden for Life’, which was the name of Dew’s garden.

“She’s an amazing connector person. She does all kinds of things in the community.

“Everybody seems to know Helen.”

Dew, who was all about ‘doing’, set up a flow chart as a feature of the book to help children make environmentally healthy decisions, just as she would. Buying second-hand, recycling and not wasting all features.

REAP Wairarapa has hosted hands-on sustainability and creativity workshops for schools in preparation for the book’s release, including a challenge for school children to create sustainability-themed artworks.

The challenge, issued by the book’s authors, was to make multi-media art from reused or recycled materials.

Children could bring their art to be displayed at the launch, and each young artist would be entered in a draw to win a prize that reflects the book’s theme of caring for the planet.

Artworks could take any form, such as poetry, story, drawing and sculpture. They should be small enough to be easily carried in one hand, and they should be made only of used or recycled materials.

Two Wairarapa children who picked up the challenge were 10-year-old Aroha Castro Recio and six-year-old Jonah Neubauer.

Both had written poems about the environment.

Aroha was clear about what she wanted to achieve.

“It’s about less chitter-chatter and more doing,” she said.

Aroha was already walking her talk, explaining how she and others had helped collect rubbish dropped near their school. Soon after, more children had followed their example resulting in the area becoming a lot cleaner and big bags of refuse collected.

“We should think about what we can do instead of throwing the rubbish around,” she said.

“We could make it into something else like a plastic bag could become a dress for a doll or a skirt.”

Aroha said she recycled things at home. Jars were used for preserves, and tins had been used for holding Matariki candles.

“It’s about fighting for the environment,” she said.

Dew, who won the Charles Rooking Carter Civic Award for Services to the Community in 2018 and was nominated for the New Zealand Women of Influence Awards in 2019, said she didn’t know what the fuss was all about.

“I just do what I do. It’s not for accolades, it’s just how I live,” she said.

“But if the book can help raise not just awareness but action that’s going to help us tackle climate change, then that’s great. That’s the cornerstone of everything I do.”

Good For You, Helen Dew! was the first collaboration between Catherine Cooper and Ali Foster.

The book will be launched at Carterton Events Centre on August 8 at 1pm. Entry is free.

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