Cold comfort in cardboard city

Last updated 12:58 31/03/2014
Hoddy Estuary Park
PATRICK HAMILTON/NELSON MAIL
SLUMMING IT: From left, Caitlin Mahon, 14, Summer Tuisama, 14, Brooklyn Ballantyne, 13, and Georgia Clarkson, 14, snuggle down in their cardboard shelter at Garin College.

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Enthusiastic Garin College students hunkered down in a cardboard city on the school's tennis court on Saturday night in a bid to understand some of the struggles those living in poverty experience.

More than 160 students from all years built their shelters for the Caritas Challenge, Slum City 2014.

Student co-ordinators Sam Traynor and Antoni Leonard, from year 12, organised and promoted the event within the school with the help of others from a student committee set up to oversee the project.

Antoni said the construction of the city was great. "Everyone got into it and made a cool city," he said.

Sam said this year had been better organised than last year and it was good to see everyone "contributing and helping each other" not just in the setup, but also the pack down.

Pastoral chaplain Paul Traynor said the event was held to educate students about what it must be like for homeless people around the world.

He said it was fantastic to have so many students from the school wanting to learn and participate in such an event. This year's sleepover had attracted nearly 100 more students than last year.

Sam and Antoni said seeing a "spike in the number of students" this year from across the year groups was a highlight for them.

Paul Traynor said there were some cosy homes, which parents came and helped build including one very pink standout structure from some year 10 girls.

After setting up their shelters for the night mass was held with the local parish, which was followed by a fundraising barbecue. About $300 was raised to support the Solomon Islands.

Catherine Gibbs from Caritas spoke to the students about some of the challenges facing the Solomon Islands and other Pacific nations. A movie was put on in the gym next to the tennis courts before students huddled together for the cool night ahead.

Staff also slept out in the tennis court, which Paul Traynor said created a natural safe haven for the students.

He said all the feedback had been positive, but next year they would maybe start building the city earlier in the day.

The effort was part of a new nationwide challenge by Caritas, a Catholic humanitarian agency, which "encourage youth to walk in someone else's shoes".

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