6 Aug 2017

Two groups of quake-hit kids meet up in Nepal

9:25 pm on 6 August 2017

What happens when a group of troubled Christchurch youth is sent on the trip-of-a-lifetime to Nepal? This will be revealed in a documentary premiering at the International Film Festival in Christchurch.

One Island of Good follows a class of alternative education students on a two week trip to Nepal, which was an effort to teach the students a lesson in service, respect, and self empowerment.

Entirely funded by the Christchurch YMCA, the documentary was a last-ditch effort to increase awareness about the problems with alternative education.

Alternative education is often considered as the last resort for students who struggle with mainstream schooling.

The YMCA Christchurch's chief executive, Josie Ogden Schroeder, said better systems were needed to work with kids who found school a challenge.

"For nine years I have been battling, trying to get changes to the funding models to pay for the services required to get these kids back on track," she said.

Josie Ogden Schroeder, YMCA Christchurch chief executive.

Josie Ogden Schroeder said in an effort to find a different way of working with alternative education students, the YMCA took a group of students on a trip to Nepal. Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

Ms Ogden Schroeder said the traditional model of alternative education, putting all of the kids who were struggling into a classroom together, was a recipe for disaster.

She said she had been trying to encourage the government to change the way it approaches these students.

"Nothing was working, no one was taking any notice, it was really hard," she said.

In an effort to try a different way of working with alternative education students, the YMCA took a group of students on a trip to Nepal, and enlisted seasoned filmmaker Tim McInnes to capture the journey.

During the trip, the students met other children, experiencing a variety of cultures and ways of life.

Ms Ogden Schroeder said she hoped the students could draw parallels between their experiences with the Christchurch and Kaikōura earthquakes, and what Nepalese children have had to endure since an earthquake hit the region in 2015.

Nepal was hit by a deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015, killing nearly 9000 people.

"We wanted to teach the kids what it was like to have a lot less than other people, and to let them talk to other kids impacted by an earthquake," she said.

Ms Ogden Schroeder said she wanted this experience captured on film as a way to speak directly to the public - and the government.

"If we want to ever change anything about the system, we have to tell the story in a bold way, and no amount of letters to ministers is ever going to achieve that," she said.

The film's director, Tim McInnes from Ruffell Productions, said there had been several challenges with filming, which was completed over 12 months.

Tim McInnes from Ruffell Productions.

'One Island of Good' director Tim McInnes from Ruffell Productions. Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

He said one of the biggest challenges was that the class was constantly challenging.

"Some days you would turn up and there would be one student in the classroom and three teaching staff ... what do you film there to make it look interesting?" he said. "Four or five months in, I had a moment where I thought 'we don't have a film'."

Mr McInnes said the two weeks the students spent in Nepal was a "pressure cooker" for the film crew, but he said it was a valuable learning experience for all involved.

"By that time we had students who might not have wanted to be interviewed, but were really interested in holding a camera or swinging a microphone, they were verging on competent by the end of the trip," he said.

One Island of Good will premiere at the International Film Festival in Christchurch on 8 August.

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