In February 2016 the YMCA Christchurch engaged a film crew to follow a class of students for a year – all of whom had been expelled from school between the ages of 13 and 15 years old. The objective was to document the realities of a Ministry of Education funded ‘alternative education’ programme after years of lobbying Government for better resourcing and fairer treatment going unheard.
The resulting film, One Island of Good, directed by Tim McInnes of Ruffell Productions, has been selected for the 2017 NZ International Film Festival programme – and will screen its World Premiere at the Isaac Theatre Royal on August 8th, followed by multiple screenings at a variety of venues in Christchurch and Wellington.
The story follows the usual classroom activities and the various steps that were involved in preparing the young people to go overseas. This included getting the appropriate travel documentation as well as physical and emotional readiness around culture, fitness, health and addiction management. The $135,000 trip was funded by the YMCA with the help of a range of corporate sponsors.
The documentary does not sugar coat the issues. The ups and downs for the staff of the YMCA are presented with an honesty which puts a challenge to Ministry decision makers and their agents, to change the way we care about the rights of vulnerable young people.
CEO Josie Ogden Schroeder explains that having the capacity to empathize and be generous to others is a key protective factor for young people, and developing this in young people with a background of abuse and neglect is very challenging. “The children our students met in Nepal were extremely poor, yet they were very grateful, humble, caring and generous. Our students got a lot from being with those children, being free of the labels they carry in NZ, being heroes for a moment. On top of this they started to understand that they had much to be grateful for in NZ, however hard their own lives were.”