Saturday 26 November 2011 | Published in Regional
In a great exchange of donations and delight, Cook Islands schools and visiting Vaka Eiva paddling teams have come together throughout the festival as part of an adopt a school initiative.
The visiting paddlers brought with them sporting goods, art supplies, pencils, books and many other items for their adopted schools.
In exchange, the adoptive schools have put on song and dance performances and a spread of food for the paddling teams in a show of their gratitude and the warm welcomes customary in the Cook Islands.
Of the Cook Islands 33 schools at Rarotonga and in the pa enua, 21 were taken under the wing of a paddling team.
The students of Apii Te Uki Ou took advantage of their Hawaiian paddling teams reputation of including the granddads of paddling for a few lessons out on the water with the Anuenue team.
Meanwhile, Australian crew the Crown Beach Kings met up with students from the alternative learning school Rakei Toa, who showed the paddlers how to scale coconut trees, peel taro and a variety of other Cook Islands chores that are a novelty to the visitors.
The Ministry of Educations Danielle Cochrane has been helping organise the adopt a school programme and yesterday said it was a runaway success.
She said the paddlers, schools and students were all grateful for the initiative.
One of the best things about it was that we were able to match up the schools and the teams so well, Cochrane said.
The day between the Crown Beach Kings and the Rakei Toa school, for example, was great because the paddlers were able to give the boys some inspiration and help out in a mentoring role and also donate some paddling gear.
The schools were in contact with their teams for a long time ahead of the event, meaning they were able to put in requests for items such as laminator machines, dictionaries and other items to help fill out their supplies.
For the school children, Cochrane said the initiative helped bridge the gap between the sport and that part of the community.
With students unable to watch many of the races, which were mostly scheduled during school hours, having the paddlers visit meant they could make contact with the Vaka Eiva festivities.
Cochrane said she was very keen to have the paddling teams which adopted schools from the outer islands be able to make the journey in coming years and would be looking at ways to make that happen.