The Makoura pupils’ charity screening of Daffodils at Regent 3 which raised $2000 for the Samoa trip. PHOTO/ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

Erin Kavanagh-Hall

The school year may have barely started, but a group of Masterton teens are already planning for their Christmas holiday – fundraising for Makoura College’s latest overseas adventure.

Twenty-five senior pupils, along with five staff and several parents, will be travelling to Samoa in early December, where they will spend nine days on the two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i.

Unlike most Pacific Island getaways, however, this summer vacation will require the pupils to roll up their sleeves and get to work – building for, painting with, entertaining, and getting to know some of Apia’s most vulnerable young people.

The Makoura contingent will spend a week with Campus of Hope, an organisation caring for children who have been victims of abuse and abandonment, helping with various charity projects and spending time with the young occupants.

The rest of the time, the group will explore Apia and Savai’i, visiting key sites and soaking up the culture.

Preparation for the trip has started early – as their travels come with a hefty price tag, the pupils are already hard at work on various fundraising initiatives, from firewood raffles to movie screenings.

The Samoa trip will be the first overseas volunteer experience Makoura has organised, and comes after the success of the college’s exchange with sister school Shinjo Higashi High School in Yamagata, Japan, starting last year and continuing until 2022.

Makoura College deputy principal Myra Coley said the trip will inspire pupils to make a positive contribution – both in their own backyard, and on the world stage. PHOTO/FILE

Deputy principal Myra Coley said she hoped their time in Samoa would inspire the pupils to “get involved” and make a positive contribution – both in their own backyard, and on the world stage.

“A lot of the students [going to Samoa] have only been as far as Palmy – so it’s exciting that their first time overseas has a real purpose,” Coley said.

“We want to help the kids understand their place as global citizens – living in a small place like regional New Zealand, it’s easy to forget you can make an impact on the world.

“Even if you’re from little old Masterton, you can make a difference.”

Coley said she was inspired to plan the Samoa trip having helped organise a similar overseas volunteering experience while teaching at Chanel College.

She made contact with educational travel organisation Edventures, who recommended Makoura work with the Campus of Hope – a residential home and school for children aged two to 16, founded by the Samoa Victim Support Group.

The pupils’ mission

While at the Campus of Hope, the pupils and staff will help build new classrooms, paint an on-site mural, and spend time with the children during their school day, reading and doing arts and crafts projects.

The Campus of Hope is mostly kept afloat by donations – so the pupils will be taking over supplies, such as books, stationery, pillows and bedding, which they will be expected to source throughout the year.

“Victim Support is heavily reliant on volunteers, so they’ll be glad to have us,” Coley said.

“The Campus of Hope will be an eye-opener – the kids will become more aware of the plight of children their own age in other countries.

“It will be different to the comforts they’re used to at home.

“But they’re open-minded kids, so I think they’ll cope well.”

Makoura has had an upsurge in Pasifika enrolees – and, for some of the pupils, the trip will also be an opportunity to connect with their heritage.

“It will be cool to see more of where my family comes from and my culture,” Shai Efaraimo, a Year 13 pupil of Samoan descent, said.

“And I think it will be cool for the kids [at the Campus of Hope] to meet people from New Zealand.”

Fundraising efforts

In the months leading up to their departure, Shai and her fellow travellers are keeping themselves busy: raising $3200 each, plus an extra $190 for those needing to apply for a passport, to cover the cost of their flights and accommodation.

The pupils are organising their own fundraisers, such as Givealittle pages and various raffles, but have also banded together to organise large community events.

A screening of the New Zealand film Daffodils (filmed partly in Wairarapa) at Regent 3 raised $2000, and a golf tournament, cultural performance evening, and quiz night are in the planning.

Business are also lending a hand – such as Professionals Masterton, whose agents have pledged $200 for the sale of every house towards the Samoa trip.

“It’s important for them to do their own fundraising – they’re gaining life skills, learning how to be problem-solvers and planners,” Coley said.

“They’re learning that if they want to do something, they have an obligation to make it happen – they can’t just ask Mum and Dad to fork it out.”

Five new pupils will travel to Shinjo Higashi in Japan at the end of this year and are also fundraising.

If you wish to assist the pupils with preparing for their overseas trips, please contact Makoura College.

A Pasifika-themed Quiz Night fundraiser will be held on Friday, June 28, in the Makoura College school hall.

Teams should consist of 4-6 people and the cost of participating is $10 a head.

All funds will go towards the pupil volunteer trip and provide equipment for the Campus of Hope Victim Support School.