Here are some of the community projects that SWYNZAA have been working on.
Ship for World Youth New Zealand Alumni Association
“Stoking the Fire” Reunion
The Ship for World Youth New Zealand Alumni Association (SWYNZAA) is pleased to announce the “Stoking the Fire” Reunion, which took place 28-30 March 2014 in Rotorua – New Zealand.
This event aimed to reconnect ex-participants from the Ship for World Youth (SWY) programmes over the last 25 years and bringing together those young leaders selected to represent New Zealand to rekindle relationships and be reminded of their SWY experience.
The reunion was intended for New Zealand alumni, however was open to any ex-participant of the SWY programme regardless of the country the ex-PY represented and the batch they belonged to. Revitalising the alumni network was also a key focus of the event.
Furthermore the reunion aimed to share information about post-programme activities that have/ are taking place around the world and to spark new ideas/ projects that make a positive difference in the world.
Stoking the Fire was held at Tangatarua Marae, Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tangatarua offered a warm and creative environment to host such an event and was easily made home by all participants. The programme was strategically crafted to work toward the key aims of the reunion, stoking the embers ofthe SWY fire that each of the participants were exposed to.
The event started on a Friday night with a traditional Maori welcome by the local kaumatua (elder) followed by an informal round of introductions and sharing of each other’s SWY experience and memories of Japan. This session was facilitated by an ex-NL John Merito from SWY1. It was a great honour to have John at the reunion sharing a wealth of knowledge and experience from his programme and how the programme has impacted his life. Many of us were inspired by what he shared and how being a part of the same programme had influenced the decisions we had made. This was a great way to start the weekend and created a good feeling amongst everyone.
Dinner was at a local Japanese restaurant- Yamato. This was a chance for participants to relax, have fun and be reminded of all our Japanese friends. Conversations and stories shared had everyone in fits of laughter and reliving memories from SWY.
A workshop focussed at post-programme activities and sparking new ideas/ projects was lead by Ramon Narayan from SWY 16/24. Ramon bought a youthful element to the workshop with some creative ways to start a conversation between each other and energisers during the session. Due to the low number of participants it was decided to focus the groups energy on ways to revitalise the alumni network. There were several ideas that arose including the need to have regional leaders that maintain direct contact with alumni residing in their region. These regional leaders would be the main links for the alumni association to connect to regarding any events or matters arising. There was a consensus to update our current database of contact details in the first instance and progress from there to establish an operational network that would feed in the main work of the alumni association and that of which the alumni association would work to strengthen and support.
There was also discussion regarding the intention to host a Global Assembly in the near future. Melissa Lelo, Ramon Narayan, Tireni Ratema, Kattrean Webber and the late Ying Kong attended the 7th SWYAA Global Assembly in Peru 2013 and were completely mind blown by the entire experience. Hosting a Global Assembly is another key goal that came out of this workshop and thought to be a great way to reciprocate the relationship New Zealand has with Japan.
Saturday afternoon was spent volunteering in the local Rotorua community in the Hannahs Bay neighbourhood. The Hannahs Bay Restoration Project led by Denise LaGrouw works to strengthen and bring together residents in the area through a community garden. The afternoon started with karakia (prayer) and storytelling by a local kaumatua Arama Pirika. Arama offered traditional tribal knowledge about the land. Several residents came along to listen and enjoy stories bringing more relevance and meaning to the garden, there were smiles all around.
The main contribution alumni were able to make was re-building a clay pizza oven. The previous pizza oven had been destroyed by local delinquents and residents had not had the means and time to restore it. After much shovelling, mixing, fetching water from the lake, stamping clay with bare feet an oven was built. The local kids showed excitement at the result of all the work and getting to enjoy some pizza in the future. Denise was very grateful to the alumni association for performing such a task that will make a difference in the lives of the families that live nearby the garden. Alumni were completely inspired by the activity and wanted to offer this idea to neighbourhoods in their hometown – lots of fun had by all.
The Rotoiti Explorer is a two story sailing vessel that sailed participants to the Manupirua hot springs on Saturday evening, this experience was the ultimate reminder of SWY. Participants had the opportunity to their favourite music from their SWY programme and enjoy the scenic surroundings of Lake Rotoiti. Manupirua hot springs was a treat for participants, these are pools that can only be reached by boat and are underneath the open night sky. After the hot pools everyone enjoyed a BBQ dinner on aboard the boat and enjoyed stargazing off the top deck and later returned to the marae relax for the night.
Sunday morning breakfast was filled with reflection of the weekend and motivated to get the alumni association energised and initiating some meaningful change making work around the country supported by other alumni working toward the same mission. After poroporoaki (formal closing) a short film of the late Ying Kong was played to acknowledge her passing and honour her loving, cheerful and warm spirit. This encouraged those in attendance to be reminded of our own uniqueness and unlimited potential to be the greatest we can be.
In short, the reunion was a great initiative with a positive intention however there were very low numbers. The low number of attendees is thought to be a result of the disconnected and disengaged alumni in New Zealand. Stoking the fire has been the only social event in several years coordinated by the alumni association. The SWYAA should work toward reenergising smaller clusters of alumni and then have these groups come together at a bigger event similar to the reunion.
In total seven alumni attended, even with such small numbers there was a significant amount of work achieved in regard to making a difference in the Rotorua community and some rigorous discussion had that will feed into the wider planning of SWYAA. This event has been a great learning for the alumni association bringing to light the need to strengthen to relationships through direct contact. Although there was minimal discussion about post-programme activities there was a big focus on starting out fresh and touching base with NZ ex-PYs. General feedback from participants was very positive and evidence that this sort of event is worthwhile and appreciated.
John Merito, Leah Fitzpatrick, Blair Gilbert, Steve Holmes, Tangatarua Marae, Waiariki Institute of Technology, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Darryl Bretherton, Dee O’Carroll, Claire Pettigrew, Hannahs Bay Restoration Project, Te Waiariki Purea Trust, Arama Pirika – Ngati Uenukukopako, Honour Te Koi & Whanau, Rotoiti Explorer, Participants