Haere Mai Bags helps former refugee students adjust to their new schools

Pippa Sussex and Ysabella Abel

Pictured: Pippa Sussex and Ysabella Abel

About four years ago, our year 9 social studies class decided to create welcome packs for former refugee students at our school as part of our migration topic. This was a class effort, one-off project, funded by each class member. 

We saw the potential in the project and the importance of an initiative like this in our community. We couldn’t let this project be a one-off because we saw the benefits it had for these people. And so, we decided to continue it ourselves. The project has grown and developed over the years, we have been able to grow our team and reach out to many new students. We supply school bags filled with stationery and other items necessary for school, which relieves a significant burden on families and those supporting them as they settle in Nelson. It also helps to welcome them to our school and let them know that their fellow students are looking out for them. Overall, we want to contribute to making the atmosphere former refugee families come in to, as positive as we can.

In 2021 we reached out to The Kāmahi Trust after hearing that they support young people who are out to make a difference, both financially and with mentoring sessions. The Trust has provided both for us, which has benefited the project greatly.

In the mentoring sessions, our mentor Rebecca Mason has helped us to expand this positive project to the wider community starting with the other schools in Stoke and we plan to reach out to the wider Nelson area and beyond. We have been able to make valuable connections with other schools’ ESOL departments and their students, creating a more united Stoke community. We have even seen other schools around the country become inspired to start up similar projects at their schools, through word of mouth. This outreach into the community was made possible by the Kāmahi Trust. 

The mentoring sessions provided to us by the Kāmahi Trust have enabled us to expand our project. During our mentoring sessions, Rebecca has helped us take all our ideas and turn them into achievable goals and actions, giving us valuable skills to lead others.  We have been able to see ways we can grow by reaching as many schools in our community as possible. We loved being able to get an outside view of the project and get someone with experience and advice help us to better communicate with others about the project. And we really enjoyed how our mentoring sessions provided us with an environment to plan and structure our initiative, which is really important when undertaking a project like ours. Rebecca has helped us focus on the important aspects of our project and tangible ways to achieve our goals.  

The money from the trust has helped us to afford enough bags for all of the students in need at Nayland and to continue this initiative over the years. Having the grant from the Trust has given our project stability, helping us be confident we can provide each year, relieving pressure on extra fundraising efforts. We love that the Kāmahi Trust supports young people to make a difference in the community and it’s empowering to know that our age doesn’t hold us back.  

We’re really grateful for all the support we have received from the Kamahi trust and we would recommend them to any young people with a project they’re passionate about.

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