Matt, 17, builds Niue hospital extension

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 08:10 15/09/2014
Nui hospital

A FANTASTIC DEED: Matt Wilson poses with nurses at the Ruamahana facility. It includes a wall made of local stone and a Wairarapa river boulder symbolising the joining of two communities.

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Like many teens, Matt Wilson fills in free time with sport, music, mates and homework - but unlike most, he has also led a $115,000 aid mission to a Pacific island.

The Masterton 17-year-old built an extension to a Niuean hospital to make a difference, get real- world training, gain friendships and - maybe best of all - do something cool with his dad.

Matt's father, Wairarapa police sergeant Garry Wilson, was the inspiration behind the year 13 Rathkeale College student's unusual school holiday project.

Having seen too many troubled teens lacking goals and parental input, Wilson set Matt a challenge. After research they settled on an extension to an aged-care facility at Niue's Foou hospital.

The hospital was rebuilt after a 2004 cyclone, but there was one thing missing, Matt said - space.

"There were eight elderly in four rooms and a little walkway in front where they just sat . . . now they get to move around, get on with their lives, meet with their families and eat at a table instead of always in their beds."

Matt's innovative design includes a five-unit day-bed wing which can be converted into a multipurpose room, a landscaped garden and a services block based around a modified shipping container complete with kitchenette, laundry and toilet.

It was prefabricated in Masterton and shipped to Niue for assembly during a July working bee by Matt, five Rathkeale friends and a group of adults, including his father.

Beforehand, Matt pitched his project far and wide during 15 months, eventually raising around $80,000 from more than 40 companies and individuals, as well as Niuean government input of $35,000.

"I'm really proud of what he's achieved," Garry said. "It was reliant on him stepping up to the plate and he did that, and beyond."

Matt said a special moment was incorporating a round, grey boulder from the Ruamahanga River, which runs past his school and home, into a white, Niuean stone wall bordering the new structure. The name Ruamahana ("warm haven") was chosen for the new facility to echo the river's name, which Matt, of Ngai Tahu descent, translates as "the joining of two".

A Niue government representative hailed Ruamahana as a "new-forged bond" between Niue and Wairarapa.

It wasn't all work. Matt said Niue, population 1500, was "pretty wicked" and described swims with metre-long sea snakes, bombs off seaside cliffs and a village seafood cookoff with dancing and a "massive big feast".

His dad's participation meant a lot. "It was something we did together."

He is now applying for Victoria University's architecture degree course.

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- The Dominion Post

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