CHILDREN GET TOGETHER
It is holiday time. The school buildings look neat and prim like the drawings on an architect's plan. There is no sign of life—desks and chairs are arranged in unnatural order, the windows are closed, and even the stray cats who needle their way around the buildings on school days in search for food, can not be seen.
This is a strange contrast to the pulsating life which invaded our school some days ago, when a large red bus brought 41 children from Matakana Island District High School for a two-day visit. They arrived here on a Sunday night; very tired and very quiet after 12 hours travelling, and were immediately billeted to the many homes of the district where they were cheered up by the friendly hospitality of the hosts, a cozy room and a substantial meal.
It is perhaps in these homes that the greatest benefits of the trip were realized. The children became part of our community and the community became the school. Friendships sprang up quickly and a feeling of well-being radiated from the faces of these young people and affected everybody.
When I saw these children again on Monday morning I understood at once that the true value of such a trip does not stem from a knowledge gained about places, but rather from a knowledge gained about people; and that therefore
Mr Waitai Pita, prominent elder of Punaruku, accompanied the schools on their trip to the Waitangi, and is seen guiding two senior Matakana pupils over the Treaty grounds.
new information in Geography or History is merely incidental when it is compared with the important realization these children had, namely, that a home can be made where people open their hearts.
Generosity and mutual respect characterized every phase of the visit. This was already evident during the initial preparations which strove to achieve an atmosphere of general well-being. Things had to be as good as they could possibly be; all the visiting pupils were fitted out with complete school uniforms, a project which would normally take a couple of years to be completed. In addition they had made a set of piupius and hand-printed tops.—Our school derived permanent material benefit from this trip too, for the householders provided a working bee to erect new goal posts on the football field and to seal the basketball court; two activities which would otherwise have been featured on the agenda for School Committee meetings for some time to come. But even the homes saw concrete changes brought about through the visit—tables and fire places were re-painted in bright colours, extra bunks installed, and many a bed has now a spread of new blankets.
The photographs tell the rest about the visit by the Matakana Island pupils to Punaruku, about the welcome, the visit to Waitangi, the sports, the hangi feast and the Social Evenings. One picture however is missing: that of a group of people chanting a farewell while the large red bus departed with the children who gave so much to us without knowing it.