Although the Kristin Pasifika Project was born out of an event which killed many and destroyed the village infrastructure, it has brought joy to many in the years since, thanks largely to Kristin School physical and health education teacher and house dean for Apollo House in the Middle School Carl Murray.
Recently, Murray has been honoured with a 2016 Independent Schools of New Zealand (ISNZ) Award for service to the community and learning.
The ISNZ awards give recognition to staff, academic, support and others, who stand out above and beyond what might reasonably be expected as part of their paid employment.
It recognises, in particular, the work Murray has done in setting up Kristin’s Pasifika Programme with Poutasi School in Samoa.
“I felt very privileged and honoured - as with any big projects within schools there are many people supporting its development including Adam Heath, Middle School principal at Kristin School from 2009 – 2015,” Murray says.
“He has been instrumental in his vision to explore these extended journeys for young students.”
Kristin first visited Poutasi village in 2012, with 14 tonnes of resources for the local schools and village after the Pasifika Project was established in partnership with Poutasi high chief Joe Annandale two years beforehand.
Sixteen Kristin students and three staff spent three weeks teaching in the local pre-school, primary school and secondary college, as well as helping build and improve facilities in the local area,” Murray says.
The following year, two Poutasi students and one staff member visited Kristin on a fully funded scholarship for three weeks at the start of 2013 and now a foundation has been established for the scholarships to continue for at least the next eight years.
“The long-held dream of creating long-term scholarships for Poutasi students to complete their schooling in New Zealand became a reality when a Kristin family donated school fees for two students to attend Kristin for two full years,” Murray continues.
Another scholarship student will be selected under the guidance of the Poutasi Secondary School principal, chiefs of the village and the Kristin Middle School principal and this student will start at Kristin in Year 10, 2017.
Kristin students and staff have since re-visited Poutasi to teach English and with the village schools’ recent connection to the Samoan Government’s SchoolNet, digital devices are now paramount, particularly for older students.
As a result, Kristin delivers a new Android tablet device to every student in Years 12 and 13 at the secondary college and to every staff member in each of the schools.
This year, Kristin students and staff will focus on the development of education resources for Poutasi schools.
“A goal is to create a sport field the size of a rugby pitch, carving into the side of a hill since the new location for the secondary school was moved following the tsunami,” Murray says.
Throughout this partnership, the benefit to Kristin students has been significant, the teacher adds.
“All students across the Middle School contribute and experience the immense satisfaction of being involved in an altruistic activity.
“Those students who travel to Samoa gain a unique insight in the rich culture and wonderful people of that country.”
Kristin students become adoptees of the families of the village, making many friendships with children of their own age and students return with immense gratitude for the opportunities they have, as well as an appreciation of the value of cultural diversity.
Along with overseeing the Pasifika Project, Murray co-ordinates the overseas exchanges for students in the Middle School to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide offered to Year 9 and 10s.
Murray first taught PE at Hamilton Boy's High School for two years before a professional rugby contract took him to Hong Kong to play in 1996.
During his time in Hong Kong he was offered a teaching position in the PE department at the prestigious Chinese International School and ten years later, he returned to NZ with his family to work at Kristin School.
One reason Murray chose Kristin School is because it is closer to his family, and it follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum he taught extensively in Hong Kong.
Kristin School was the first New Zealand school to teach this curriculum in their middle and senior schools.
For the humble teacher, reward comes in many forms in his career – but being able to share his knowledge to young people and watch them gain independence and confidence from something they enjoy is hugely satisfying – as is seeing them experience and embrace new cultures, he says.