5 Jul 2019

Big idea, big hearts: Students cook for the homeless

From Checkpoint, 5:51 pm on 5 July 2019

South Auckland teenagers who say homelessness is a big problem in the area have taken it on themselves to do something about it.

Students from Manurewa High School have fund-raised money to buy ingredients to make hot meals for the homeless - and today they were busy in the kitchen.

Pasta salad, chop suey and cornbeef is on the menu and were expertly putting the dishes together are the students.

"We observe our mothers as they cook, it's basically like a childhood food," said Adam Fa'alolo.

Today has been months in the making.

It started with a school project that asked the students how they could make the community a happier place.

To do that, they looked at what made people unhappy - homelessness and poverty being the biggest causes.

Fifteen-year-old Reannin Taylor said there are a lot of people doing it rough in the area.

"It makes me feel sad and I want to help them all the time, if I have any spare change [and] they ask for some money I'll try my best to give it," she said.

The students decided to do something about it and the idea of feeding the homeless was born.

One of the deputy principals, Barbara Ngawati-Salaivao, said they fundraised money themselves in order to pay for the ingredients.

She could not be prouder of the teenagers.

"There are bumps in the ride and lots of things that didn't go our way," she said.

"[We] tried to find the most ethical approach to even meet people who are homeless, that was a journey itself."

"But today the kids have turned up, they're using prior knowledge that they already have. I got shooed away, 'don't tell me how to make the potato salad I already know'. The chop suey was like, 'we already know how to make chop suey' so I was like sweet, I've got no jobs today, you guys are doing all the work'."

Once all the kai is done, it is packed into the car and everyone heads off to the Friendship House in Manukau.

The free meal is given for anyone who comes in, no questions asked.

It did not take long for people to start digging in.

"I just came in for a sandwich but this is really much better," said one lady.

"It's great because [it broadens] their understanding of the world. There are a lot of people who find it hard and a little bit of love out there is [very] good."

For the students, there were smiles all around.

They say it felt good doing their bit for their community.