When Newcastle Grammar School trekkers walked the Kokoda Track it was to learn more about the ANZAC history of the WW2 campaign. But they also wanted to give something back to the descendents of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. Keen not to just give money, this group wanted to roll up their sleeves and do something positive! A Hands On Humanity Project was born!
We identified that reading books and sporting equipment were needed desperately by the Menari Village. NGS drew up a shopping list of books and sporting equipment for a school of 130 kids. They ended up with about $2000 worth of gear that weighed around 30kg. Extra porters were employed to carry this gear and medical equipment, that the parents on the trek had donated, from Kokoda to Menari.
“Even though we had given the teachers plenty of notice, my biggest concern was that there would be no kids to do the project with as they were on school holidays,” said the Principal. “But I shouldn’t have worried because as the trekkers came through the grass at the bottom of the airstrip, not only was the whole school there; but the whole village community".
An afternoon of traditional dancing, welcome speeches and singing followed”.Newcastle teacher Pete took the younger kids for games while the others were split into four sports – soccer, netball, touch rugby and AFL. Newcastle students, with the help of a Menari teacher, ran practice drills and a modified game with their groups for about 40 minutes. The group then moved onto the next sport. “I was blown away by their skill level and teamwork,” said one student. afternoon was spent in the school. Each NGS trekker, assisted by Menari teachers, worked with a small group of students with age appropriate reading materials.
A traditional Sing Sing rounded out the evening. The whole village turned out early to farewell the trekkers on the following morning with singing, speeches and a gift – a bilum – for each trekker.
The project was a huge success. The NGS students had an opportunity to not only contribute to the community but to also really connect with the local people and see how they live.