Three Waikato teenagers arrived back at school this week after the trip of a lifetime to China – the result of joining a Waikato District youth action group.
After joining the Te Kauwhata and Onewhero Youth Action Group to develop their leadership skills, Marina Wihongi, from Meremere, Caleb Monk and Tuene Henderson, both of Onewhero, were encouraged by the Waikato District Council’s Youth Engagement Advisor Shannon Kelly to apply for a New Zealand China Friendship Society scholarship.
The $2000 scholarships allowed the trio to experience and learn about another culture first-hand as they travelled to China for two weeks to retrace the footsteps of celebrated New Zealand author and poet, Rewi Alley.
While learning about Rewi’s life-long contribution to the Chinese revolution, from 1927 until his death in 1987, his work in organising thousands of industrial cooperatives during the war against Japan, as well as his efforts in pioneering technical training schools in China, the teenagers also took in some of the famous cultural and historic attractions in China.
They toured the Great Wall, Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an and Shanghai’s Pear Tower. They also spent time at the Rewi Alley Research Centre and museum at Lanzhou City University to learn about Alley’s impact on local people, and the relationship between New Zealand and China.
“We’ve been offered scholarships to attend Lanzhou University and this is definitely something I am strongly considering,” said Tuene Henderson.
“I was so incredibly touched by the warmth, friendliness and the openness of the Chinese people.”
“Rewi Alley’s philanthropic work has inspired me to want to do the same thing. Help a country in need or travel to another country and experience the culture and life fully.”
However, she also felt grateful to come from a small and close-knit community after seeing Chinese cities teeming with millions of people.
Caleb described receiving the scholarship for the trip as ‘surreal’ and all three said it was an opportunity of a lifetime.
For more about Youth Action Groups click here.
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