Yesterday nineteen Alternative Education students aged 13-17, along with a staff team of ten, returned from a two week long overseas trip to Nepal.
The purpose of the trip was to show YMCA students, who have all been excluded from mainstream school, the opportunities that exist for them beyond their own back yard. It was also an effort to demonstrate that their experiences in New Zealand are in many ways very privileged, and that to make the most of their lives it is important to also appreciate what they have and what they can offer others.
They have returned exhausted, exhilarated, changed. What comes next is yet to unfold. The trip however has without doubt been an event which will be long remembered – the learning and impact from the shared experience one which will reverberate for many years, even generations, to come.
The YMCA wishes to thank most sincerely the business sponsors who helped make this happen – Kathmandu, Stellar Recruitment, CropMark Seeds, Above The Line and Map Progress. The YMCA is looking forward to continuing it’s association with these businesses going forward, in ways which continue to support the learning and development of our young people.
The trip, and the preparation leading to this trip, has been documented in film by Ruffell Productions. Ruffell Productions is a film and photography company which is focused on telling engaging stories through strong pictures. The story that Tim McInnes has been piecing together for the past 11 months is that of the young people: who they are, where they have come from, what they aspire to, and the barriers they face to achieve their dreams.
The YMCA’s charitable cause is stated as “investing in the next generation.” This project – dubbed Project Hope – is about young people and what they need to thrive and succeed. CEO of the YMCA Josie Ogden Schroeder is determined to put the realities of the systemic and social challenges that surround New Zealand’s most vulnerable children at the centre of the YMCAs charitable outcomes. “In order to create meaning from all the many things the YMCA does, it is important that there is at it’s centre a charitable cause. For me, the cause of the YMCA is to make a difference. In order to do this, we need to be courageous in what we say, why we say it, and who we say it too. There are many programmes which deal with symptoms of a bigger issue. Many young people in NZ require systemic change within our education and health systems, and this needs to be wrapped around a broader awareness within business and community groups about possible support structures which give young people better options for their futures.
“In particular, young people who have challenges around poverty, violence, alcohol, drugs or simply have learning or mental health difficulties which have alienated them from school, should not be sentenced to a lifetime of poor achievement while they are in their early teens. Alternative Education, in it’s current form, is in effect a life sentence of sub-standard education and consequently depletes future opportunity. Alternative Education, due to the system of funding, referral and support, does not set students up for success as adults, but instead creates a common ground for anti-social behaviour and low aspiration.” Ogden Schroeder says.
Ogden Schroeder stresses that tutors who work in the area of Alternative Education are enormously under-valued and taken for granted by the schools and the Ministry of Education.
Ruffell will continue to document the story for the next few months, and the final documentary is set to tour the world on the international film festival circuit, from April 2017.