Wednesday 24 February 2010 | Published in Regional
More than 500 school students across Aitutaki are being provided healthy breakfasts under a new Red Cross programme to support them as they return to classes.
As schools reopened this week for the first time since Cyclone Pat ravaged the island on February 9, Red Cross and community volunteers were there with a breakfast of cereal, bread, fruit and milk on offer for the children of three of the four schools on the island.
Yesterday students from Araura Primary School, Araura College, and the SDA Primary School were all greeted with their first healthy breakfast which will continue for up to a month. Vaitau Primary School students will get their first breakfast at school when they return to classes today.
The new Red Cross breakfast programme aims to boost children’s spirits as they return to normal activities and also provides a nutritious meal to help with concentration and learning.
Principal of Araura College, Enoa Raea, said the Red Cross breakfast programme encourages children to come together and talk, which helps with the healing process.
“Food brings people together,” Raea said. “The children are talking among themselves and sharing what has happened. It also gives them a good start for learning – food feeds the brain too.”
Secretary general of the Cook Islands Red Cross Niki Rattle also believes the programme will boost the children’s morale.
“Food has always been a gift of love for Cook Islanders, and food to us means socialising, comfort and happiness,” Ms Rattle said. “The programme is saying Red Cross is here for you, we care for you and we want to get you started on returning life to normal,” she said.
Rattle said the school breakfast programme would also help parents by providing some extra care for their children during a difficult time.
“Parents are coping with the enormous task of cleaning up after the cyclone. Our support means they don’t have to worry about providing their children with a nourishing meal to start the day.”
In partnership with members of the private sector, Red Cross will provide food for the healthy meals and support the schools to serve them, with the help of parents who have volunteered to assist.
“It’s a partnership between Red Cross and the community,” Rattle said. “Cook Islanders are resilient people – but this cyclone was beyond what anyone expected. With this programme we are mobilising the community to support themselves.”
Meanwhile the global humanitarian organisation is holding its Aitutaki branch annual general meeting on Thursday at 5pm at the Women’s Federation Centre in Arutanga for those who want to get more involved in the great work that Red Cross does everyday.