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Aathira Nair is a Year 13 student at Westlake Girls School who has been helping local charity Foster Hope in her role as Service Prefect for her 'house' at the school, Onewa House. Each ‘house’ at Westlake supports a charity related to a particular theme (women, health, community, animals and children). Aathira, who lives in Glenfield, says this system was organised so that students are motivated to support their house charities with a little inter-house competition to get them enthusiastic! She talks to Channel Magazine this month about her work with the charity that puts together backpacks for children going into foster care in New Zealand.
Courtney Bennett: How did you get involved with the charity Foster Hope?
Aathira Nair: During the holidays I researched different charities that were involved in supporting children, our house's theme. Initially we looked at KidsCan, but we decided the aid we could provide would be much more valuable to a growing local charity. We wanted to support Foster Hope by donating items such as toys, books, toiletries and knitting. We then got in contact with Louise and formed a plan of action to tackling a goal of $2800, which provides packs for 80 children. We organized events like ‘Guess the number of Jaffas in the Jar’ raffle and a book swap.
All of the service prefects also joined hands to organize Kaos, which is a game much like tag played by the students within the school. Each of these events had a gold coin donation fee which went towards the charity funds account. I also got the help of my dean who is a keen knitter to form a knitting club within our school. This club is held every Wednesday lunchtime and students are able to borrow wool and needles provided by the fabrics department to knit beanies, scarves or even just squares (which we sew together to form blankets). The students have knitted over 25 beanies, 25 scarfs and three blankets. Each term we also hold collections of items. Last term we collected books and soft toys. The collection had a terrific outcome with over 750 items being donated by the students from our house. This term we are collecting pyjamas for the pyjama drive and toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc).
CB: What do you like most about helping other people and why is it important to help others?
AN: Seeing the excitement of the person on the receiving end. The satisfaction you feel when you get something for someone else is never the same as when you get something for yourself. Being born in India, I have seen poverty at its worst in some areas. Back in India, on each birthday of a family member, my family used to give food and clothes to children in orphanages. Since coming to New Zealand, my parents have actively been donating to Red Cross. When I was chosen to be a service prefect for my house, I was able to follow the path that my parents set in me to always give back to the community. I think that it is important to help others as this world needs more are willing to give back to the community.
CB: What do you enjoy most about Westlake Girls'?
AN: Each student is given the chance to excel in their field of choice. The teachers at Westlake support each student's needs. They go above and beyond to help any student in need. The teachers provided me with the support and motivation to discover my potential. Since entering Westlake, I have been able to try out various different extracurricular activities; robotics, tech wizards, badminton and netball. The newly established house system also allows the deans to gain a better understanding of each student’s potential and provide them with the support and resources to achieve their goals.
CB: What’s your favourite part about living on the North Shore?
AN: My favourite part of living in the North Shore is the lifestyle. The people on the shore are very nice. Having lived previously in other areas of Auckland, I can confidently say that I have enjoyed living on the Shore more.
CB: Do you have any favourite community events you look forward to?
AN: I look forward to Chinese New Year and Diwali celebrations every year. I have been involved in many of the Diwali celebrations over the years as I used to do Bollywood dancing.
CB: Who are the people you admire most and why?
AN: Like pretty much every child, I admire my parents most. Its sounds clichéd but I aspire to be like them. My mum is a tax accountant and my father is an engineer. Through my father, I have found my passion for technology. I help out at my father’s engineering workshop; Shelkam Engineering on most weekends. My mother like all mothers has been my shield. She has made me the person I am today.
Apart from my parents, my role model is a Dr Michelle Dickinson, a senior Engineering lecturer at Auckland University. Earlier on this year, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to attend the Rotary Science and Technology Forum. At this forum she was a keynote speaker and her speech was truly inspirational.
CB: Anything you feel we could better as a community?
AN: As a community, we must all learn communicate better. It is only recently that I came to the realization that I have lived in the same house for over six years but I am not aware of most of my neighbours' names. Recently during a bad storm, some of the small trees in our shared driveway collapsed onto the driveway. It was only then that I got to communicate with the people around us.
CB: What do you do in your spare time?
AN: I am a taekwondo student. I am currently a red belt and am aiming for a black belt. I also help out my father’s workshop during my spare time.
CB: What community organisations do you admire and why?
AN: I admire most the small community organizations; those who do not spend 80% of their money raised on advertisements. Foster Hope is a non-profit organisation with 100% of money and donations going towards the children. I think that that is the way every charity should be run. Louise is a true inspiration to me as she has combined both her job/business and charity so that she is able to live her life while making the life of those who are less fortunate better. I aspire to do the same in my life. I must mention that I also appreciate the Spark Foundation for creating Givealittle. This page has enabled charities and causes of all manner (no matter how big or small) to receive the attention they require.
CB: In 10 years I’ll be…
AN: In 10 years I hope to be an engineer following my passion for design and technology, taking forward my father’s engineering workshop. Having been involved with Foster Hope this year, I hope I will still be in touch with Louise and doing my little bit to help out children in need.
Channel Magazine: Issuu 56 July 2015