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Wednesday 23 November 2011 | Published in Regional


A swath of Rarotonga schools yesterday put on an all-singing, all-dancing welcome for paddlers currently stationed in the Cook Islands.

Paddling teams from Australia and New Zealand stopped by Takitumu, Avarua, Arorangi, St Josephs and Imanuela Akatemia schools yesterday to exchange gifts and goodwill as part of the Vaka Eiva competition currently underway.

The paddling teams came with school supplies, sports goods and other gifts for the schools as part of the Ministry of Educations adopt a school initiative. What they received in return was a taste of the Cook Islands culture and hospitality.

And by the sounds of things, it is a trade-off that both the schools and the paddling teams were happy to make.

At St Josephs School, the Maroro Port Macquarie Outrigging Canoe Club were treated to song and dance from pupils of all levels during their visit.

After prayers and hymns were recited to open the day, the St Joes boys flexed their muscles with a haka before the schools peace doves put on a more melodious performance for the New South Wales crew.

There was a dancing display and a rendition of the Australian national anthem before the pupils invited the paddlers up to teach them some Kuki moves.

Maroro paddler Karen Newman said the team was in awe of the students talent, describing the kids as being absolutely beautiful.

She said there was often an island flavour to paddling tournaments, but not many could compare with Vaka Eiva.

The whole day has just been fantastic, its so really tops it all off, Newman said. The girls (from Port Macquarie) had tears in their eyes and I even think some of the boys did too.

The St Josephs pupils also received a mail bag from their namesake in Port Macquarie, filled with letters from another St Josephs school from across the Pacific.

At Takitumu School a little earlier in the day, the Te Ika Nui crew from New South Wales Central Coast amazed their adopted students with the gifts they brought.

The team collected a huge range of goods in Australia to bring with them such as puzzles, art supplies, books, rugby balls, pencils and much more the children letting out wows as each item was brought out and presented.

Those students had shown off their singing and drumming talents to the visiting paddlers, as well as performing some marching and some dancing to round it all off.

Te Ika Nuis Yvonne Walters said the team was currently on its second visit to the Cook Islands and was very proud of its adopted students.

In total, 21 of the visiting teams have adopted schools from across the Cook Islands as part of the initiative. Many of them took yesterdays rest day as a chance to meet their schools.