“Image source: gisborneherald.co.nz”
Children from Edgecumbe are slowly returning to their hometown.
And Sport BOP and the Whakatane District Council Project Recovery team are supporting this with a special school holiday programme for displaced youths.
“I think it’s hugely important for the kids to be able to be themselves,” says Vicky Richards from Project Recovery Edgecumbe, “and not have any care about what’s going on with the rebuild and Edgecumbe looking like it does at the moment.”
More than 40 children have enrolled in the school holiday programme, the third in the last six months.
“The first programme we did, we had more kids. Probably about 50 or more. We didn’t want to put any boundaries around it, the cost is free, we didn’t want families to have the burden of that extra cost as well,” says Vicky.
The kids come from Kawerau, Awakeri and all around the Eastern Bay of Plenty – back to their home, back to hang out with the kids they grew up with.
“They know each other these kids – a lot of them go to school together. So it’s easy, as opposed to living out of the district and having to put them into childcare where they don’t really know anyone, so it has taken a burden off of them.”
An Edgecumbe resident herself, Vicky suffered extensive damage to her own property. She says the children in the community have been through a lot.
“Kids being in other homes, in other towns, for a start, and trying to find a new normal. That’s been hard, seeing the kids emotions up and down over that. Plus, families are closer to moving back into their homes again, which is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” says Vicky.
Sport Bay of Plenty is also working with Edgecumbe College to undertake a review of sport in the school and future-proof its sporting facilities after it suffered severe damage in the April flood.
“It’s a terrible situation out here and we looked at what Sport Bay of Plenty could do to help the community and we thought often schools are really important,” says Karen Stanton of Sport BOP.
Karen says the fields and indoor gymnasium have been gutted.
“The staff here have been really inventive with using the school hall and taping out lines, putting in badminton and all sorts of things that they can use around the school. But really, all things that they use to use for P.E. or general play is gone at the moment and that’s a real shame.”
It’s a community still reeling – but determined to fight for its future.