From inside a state-of-art Marine Sports facility overlooking Okahu Bay on Auckland’s Waterfront, it can be hard to imagine there are any children in Auckland who have never been to the beach, never swum in the ocean, let alone sailed on a boat. However, this is the unfortunate reality for too many of the tamariki who participate in the Akarana Marine Sports Trust’s flagship community outreach programme.
At the Hyundai Marine Sports Centre, our mission is to create “safe pathways to the sea for all”. With this in mind, Akarana Marine Sports Trust created a no-barriers program that provides even the most vulnerable with incredible marine-based learning experiences.
The New Navigators programme is available for decile one and two intermediate schools only, with an overwhelming majority of the students coming from South Auckland. Even though a lot of these tamariki live within a few kilometres of the ocean most have never truly experienced it, some even tell us they have never seen the sea.
The Trust provides everything the students need to participate in the New Navigator program, including the bus to and from school, life jackets, rash shirts, warm Aqua fleece, helmets, shoes and sunscreen.
“We aim to make the whole experience simple and stress-free for the students so that they can focus on just being kids and having the best day of their lives” explains Programme Coordinator Kim McAllansmith.
“You have no idea how much this means. These students have such difficult home lives and are facing some awful challenges. For them to have this amazing experience being out on the water and to be allowed to just be kids having fun, forgetting all their worries and hardships for one day is such a gift you are giving these children” – Head Teacher.
The New Navigators program is based on three core initiatives, giving these children the opportunity of a lifetime by getting them out on the water and experiencing sailing, educating them about how to protect our waterways, and encouraging kids to stay active. The program gives these children a pathway back to the sea and an important connection to ancestors who travelled here so long ago. This is how New Navigators got its name as we try to rebuild the critical ties between these Whanau and the ocean.
As part of the environmental protection component of the day, New Navigators has partnered with Blake-NZ who deliver an interactive VR session that takes students on a journey through some of the Hauraki Gulf marine reserves. After showing the students healthy marine environments they are then shown in contrast highly fished and major marine traffic sites where the water is unhealthy and polluted. This illustrates how our actions affect the environment and gets the students talking and discussing ways they can change their actions. The VR session is an extremely valuable part of the day’s lessons as the students are always engaged and excited to try new technology, making them more likely to take home some of the lessons they learnt.
During the on-water session, our New Navigators are encouraged to sail alongside their classmates in either a four-man (plus instructor) boat called a Quest or an Optimist which is a beginner one or two-person sailing dinghy. The Quest sailing teaches the students how to work together as a team, while learning the fundamentals of sailing, whereas the Optimist encourages more independence and allows the sailors to take control.
The majority of these children have never sailed before and understandably are often very nervous. However, after some epic water fight battles from their boats and positive reinforcement from the coaches, they all leave more excited and confident than ever. “I never thought I could do what I have done… It has been awesome” – New Navigator Student.
“The most important part of the New Navigators programme for me however, is giving disadvantaged youth the opportunity to do something that we can do every day and so often take for granted. We hope to break the cycle with education and put a smile on the faces of some tamariki that really need it.” – New Navigator programme coach Jamie Catchpoole
“It was the best day of my life” – New Navigator Student.