Changing the world we live in

Omokoroa Point School student council CEOs Caitlin Maurice, 13, Kyrin Palmer, 12, and Zara Weatherley, 12, searching for countries that the school could sponsored next. Photo: Tracy Hardy.

Learning about global communities is much more than an abstract concept for students at Omokoroa Point School.

For the past nine years the school has been sponsoring a student on the other side of the world – Chiyambi from Mikolongwe, Malawi.

Chiyambi was six-years-old when the school began sponsoring him through World Vision child sponsorship and his community was struggling.

Now, almost a decade on, locals have access to food and water, preventable child deaths have been eliminated with massive improvements in rates of malaria and diarrhoea, and education is paving the way for the future.

Omokoroa Point School principal Vicki Knell says the school’s sponsorship was initially sparked by a local pastor who saw the need in Mikolongwe and encouraged locals to lend their support.

“Since then, each year it’s been up to the student council to renew that commitment and to find the money to pay for it, and they always have. They’ve run special discos to raise funds and now the money from our Christmas fair goes towards the sponsorship.”

Vicki says the school keeps reports and updates about Chiyambi posted in the admin area so students and parents can see his progress.

Chiyambi’s story has also becoming an important teaching tool for the students.

“In the New Zealand curriculum a lot of what we have to teach is about global communities and sustainability and issues such as water conservation. For our students, knowing about Chiyambi and his community helps them understand that these are real issues affecting real people.

“We put on a school production each year and in one of our plays, that we just repeated again this year, the story focuses on living in a sustainable world and one of our characters was Chiyambi. So our students are learning from him,” says Vicki.

“Children in New Zealand, for the most part, are blessed to have things pretty good. The sponsorship is a chance to consider how life is in other parts of the world and how they can play their little part in improving things for people that aren’t as lucky.”

With Chiyambi’s community reaching their development goals, Vicki says the school has taken a vote and is about to take on its second child sponsorship in Cambodia. She’s sending out a challenge to other local schools in and around Tauranga to join them in changing a child’s life.

“It’s been really rewarding for us. When you see the reports and you find out how you are changing someone’s life and how you are helping a community, it makes it very worthwhile. You can change such a lot which just a little bit.”

What’s changed in Mikolongwe?

Maize production increased from 270kg per hectare to 1249kg per hectare

Seventy per cent of households keep livestock, making them less vulnerable if crops fail

Prevalence of diarrhoea has fallen from 52 per cent to 3 per cent and the last cases of cholera were treated in 2010

More than 70 per cent of people are now using clean water from boreholes and shallow wells

About 74 per cent of adults are now literate

Malaria rates have dropped from 81 per cent to 22 per cent.

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