Aranui pupil wins Rika scholarship

16:00, Mar 02 2014
Aranui High School student Joni Palmer
SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY: Aranui High School student Joni Palmer, 17, will travel to Japan next month to stay with Christchurch quake victim Rika Hyuga’s family.

Quake victim Rika Hyuga's father welcomed Aranui High School student Joni Palmer, 17, into his home and heart while presenting her with a new scholarship to visit Japan.

Hyuga, who only wanted to be known as "Rika's father", has been in Christchurch for the three-year anniversary of the quake that killed his only child.

He was at the school on Friday to deliver a scholarship he and his wife created in memory of their daughter.

Rika Hyuga, 30, was a nurse studying English at the King's Education Language School, so that she could practise nursing in New Zealand.

She died in the collapse of the CTV building in the February 2011 earthquake.

Her parents have since established the Rika Fund, which awards two scholarships a year to students enrolled in Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology nursing or Japanese programmes.


The Kanto Gakuin High School Scholarship will every year give at least one Christchurch secondary school student the chance to spend three months in Japan and attend Rika Hyuga's high school.

Despite his limited English, it was clear to all at the presentation of the scholarship how much the initiative meant to Hyuga.

The Hyugas lost a "precious daughter" in the February quake, but they wanted to help others, translator Kei Ando said.

"He cannot give anything to his own daughter.

"But he can provide something for other young people who have a dream like Rika."

Year 13 student Joni Palmer will travel to Yokohama, near Tokyo city, in March.

The Hyugas were so excited about her arrival that Hyuga joked his wife may never want to "give her back" in June.

Palmer, who has studied Japanese for four years, told The Press she was excited, but shocked to be chosen.

"I feel kind of really humbled. It's a real honour.

"I know there's lots of people [in Tokyo].

"I probably expect it to be busy, heaps of people and crazy and exciting."

She thought Hyuga was "real sweet and really nice".

She had already spoken to his wife about helping her learn English while perfecting her Japanese in return.

The Press