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Our latest programme - Cook Is, 01 - 07 Oct 2022

After two years of lockdowns and restricted travel, we’re so happy that our Pacific Student Leadership Programme returned to the Cook Islands in October 2022. Bringing together exceptional young high school leaders from New Zealand, Australia and the Cook Islands.

The goal was, as always, to equip our rangatahi (young people) with the connections, personal and practical skills to lead our Pacific region towards a bright future – with a whole lot of fun mixed in. Given the responses (93% overall satisfaction rate) from our participants, we certainly achieved that during the week-long programme!

Hear from Avalldamarie Godinet - Yr 12, Sacred Heart Girls College, Hamilton, NZ

Connecting like-minded young leaders

60 student leaders attended from the following schools:

New leadership skills

The trip began with participants getting to know each other, team building and learning the fundamentals of team leadership. This included the introduction of FLA's - Task Achievement Process, a tool for leaders to tackle any task or problem in any situation. Thanks to Tereora College for hosting our leaderships session.

Learning through doing

Our young leaders put their new leadership skills into action by planning, decision-making, communicating, coordinating and evaluating various tasks and activities, across the beautiful island of Rarotonga.

Testing the team work and first chance to lead in island survival. Each syndicate had a time limit and could only use what they could find in the tropical bush. An emergency shelter, that could withstand a cyclone. Followed by a raft to get their whole team to safety across the lagoon!

Each syndicate had the chance to learn about cultural cooking in a genuine ground-to-plate experience. Some Cook Islands history and tradition presentations from the elders, thanks to the team at Umu Experience for creating a bespoke learning activity for us. Leaders organised their teams to prepare different parts of the feast, ensuring everyone had a good feed for lunch!

Tackling the Needle - cross island hike - was a highlight challenge for the syndicates. Leaders had to plan thoroughly to get their teams to the top, and enjoy the stunning views. Managing varying fitness levels, heat, food, injuries. Experiential learning at its best.

Environment issues are a big focus for our young leaders, which is a great thing. The Cook Islands National Environment Service worked with each syndicate during the week, introducing them to the Ridge to Reef initiative. Some excellent workshops and problem solving led by the students, gave them a chance to contribute.

Teams also worked hard in the hot conditions to make a practical difference to the environment. Leaders managed to keep their team members motivated, and organised to collect different rubbish categories during the beach clean up tasks. Together, the four syndicates collected over 130kg of plastics, glass and metal from the beaches around Rarotonga.

Team work and learning about traditional culture were the goals when visiting Gallery Tavioni with the Cook Islands Voyaging Society. Syndicates made over 10m of rope using coconut husks, and helped carve vaka hulls, preparing for their maiden voyage. Students were also led to plan and prepare for a disaster scenario, looking at what emergency management officials would have to consider in a Pacific Islands context.

Students were lucky to work with business leaders of four inspiring local businesses. They gained insight into the challenges of running a business in a small Pacific nation, and workshopped a number of current business issues, which they presented back to each business manager. Thanks to Vodafone Cook Is CEO, Phillip Henderson. Bank of the South Pacific country manager David Street. Air NZ Cook Islands country manager, Addrienne Hosking-Tinirau. Fletcher Melvin of Island Craft.

Giving back to the community, while learning about cultures and leadership, is an important part of the FLA kaupapa/mission. 27 sets of crutches were donated to the Rarotonga Hospital, greatly boosting the new physio departments resources. Thanks to hospital director Dr Yin Yin May for hosting our visit, and accepting the donation.

Beach fun

On every trip we aim to give the students some well deserved fun and relaxation at the beach. A chance to enjoy the tropics and spend time with their new friends, before getting ready to head home.

Graduation function

To recognise the achievements of our young leaders and also the contribution to the programme from local community members and organisations. Much of the value in these intensive courses comes from students learning about other people, places and cultures. We heard waiata (songs) and watched kapa haka (Māori action songs/chants) and a number of speeches talking about the importance of developing our young leaders. We were also grateful to have the Honourable Mac Mokoroa, Cook Is Min. of Education in attendance.

The Australian High Commissioner with the four Australian students

Thank you

Our programme wouldn't have had as much impact if it wasn't for the generous local community coming together and supporting us. Thanks to Deputy High Commissioner Helena Cook and the New Zealand High Commission to the Cook Islands for hosting our end of course graduation. Certainly a fitting place to recognise the efforts and accomplishments of students and supporters. To Air Rarotonga for sponsoring a number of flights for Cook Islands students from the Pa Enua (outer islands) to travel to and from the programme. Also to the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce for connecting us with local businesses, and taking such an interest in youth development.

"Overall the whole program has been an incredible experience. I have made life long connections to not only the fellow students but also the syndicate leaders who have inspired me in my role as head girl and led the way to inspire others. I believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

After such good feedback from students, and local Cook Islands community support, we look forward to returning in 2023. We are also aiming to head back to Fiji and expand the Pacific Student Leaders Programme to Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. The aim is to serve nearly 360 young leaders from across the Pacific in 2023!

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