Turf chores: The Hastings Pasifika students sacrificing their weekends to maintain Women’s Refuge safe house gardens

Sean Lagikula has been sacrificing his weekends off the rugby field to tend to a different kind of turf

The 17-year-old from New Caledonia is one of 12 international students from Lindisfarne College in Hastings who’ve played a fundamental role in maintaining the grounds of Women’s Refuge safe houses in Hastings and Napier

“When I first came to the school in 2019 I started going to the gardening days at the Refuges,” Lagikula said

“There are lots of boys from New Caledonia in the hostel who first dragged me there, and I’ve been really enjoying going along ever since.” He and his peers have been breaking a sweat pulling weeds and laying down limestone for the refuge gardens since 2016

He said his favourite part of the work is getting outside and doing something good for the community

“Every time we see the women there, they come up and say hello and thank you, they’re really grateful for what we do

“It also makes me feel good about myself – that what I’m doing isn’t for nothing. I’m doing it for people, and their wellbeing,” he said

Lagikula said his volunteer work is closely linked to the care he has for the women in his family back in Noumea and hopes to continue to support women wherever he is through simple acts like gardening

“It’s surprising to me how women are treated in the home. Before I started volunteering I didn’t think it was as big a problem as it actually is. I am happy to be out there and supporting them,” he said

On top of the yard-work, Lindisfarne students have been contributing to the Women’s Refuges and Te Whare Whanau Purotu by preparing and delivering about 1400 care packages over the past five years

Each care package contains a minimum of 20 personal hygiene products, alongside other donated items, and is personally wrapped and ribboned by Lindisfarne pupils, Lindisfarne College Director of International Students Lisa Miles said

“The packages that we compile are geared towards the comfort and hygiene of women. We include everyday necessities like sanitary items, body wash, and deodorant and some luxury items like a really nice hand cream,” Miles said

Miles said the women that receive the packages were o�en brought to tears by the kindness and care shown by the teenage students. She feels that voluntary work is important for students to learn how to action empathy for others

“In doing our volunteering work year-in and year-out, generations of Lindisfarne students are not only getting the opportunity to give back but also to learn valuable life skills along the way

“We hope that we can continue this relationship for many years and that we can help more boys grow up to be men, partners, and fathers of good character,” Miles said.