A Trip to Middle Earth

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A Trip to Middle Earth

Hi my name is Adélaïde Tissot-Favre.

I come from Paris but now I am living in the bottom of the earth!

It is great I love it here! It does have its challenges though, and I want to share with you what I have been doing in Aotearoa (New Zealand) since December. See I’ve improved my second language already! I am fascinated by a culture so different from mine and really enjoy the endless possibilities to learn new things.

I am doing an internship, working at Rimbrook Study Centre in Hamilton New Zealand, and before I was in Wellington, taking English classes. Rimbrook has been around since 1989 and since the beginning the number of people who come to Rimbrook has grown in leaps and bounds!


I love The Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton, where some scenes, from the movie were filmed and I am planning to go there before I return to France (Guess what…I succeed to go and it was an amazing experience!) My imagination goes wild trying to learn as much as I can and thinking that I live in Middle Earth.

I study in a Business School in Marseille and my 6 months here are a great opportunity to exercise some of the skills I have and learn a lot of new ones. Must confess, I am really trying to polish my English pronunciation. My biggest challenge is to remember that here (as weird as it might seem) the H is not silent, so I must learn not to say  ‘ave’ but ‘have’ not ‘urry’ but ‘hurry’ nor ‘ello’ but ‘hello’… well I am getting there until I say ‘honesty’ and my friends laugh and say it’s ‘onesty’ but ‘oney’ is ‘honey’. It’s so weird! I shall return to Paris with all this sorted out and with the best pronunciation ever!

In my Internship, I have had amazing experiences, such as helping (not elping) to organize and run two Refugee Holiday Programmes for children. I must say that it has been quite a challenge for me! But I love to overcome challenges! It is also important to remind this Maori quotation: ‘Kotahi tatou’ (We are one). I think that this is what defines New Zealand!

I will truly miss New Zealand! Because time is running fast and I just have 2 weeks left. I am going to enjoy my time until the last day!

I will never forget what I have learnt here, I have grown so much in many ways! Here people are very friendly, relaxed and happy! I must say this is the complete opposite, to Europe! Mauruuru koe Aotearoa! Thank you, New Zealand!

Now I am going to tell you something about the different activities I have been involved with. These activities have to do with local girls that come to Rimbrook to study, learn and have fun! Two of the activities I participated in were for children and young girls who are refugees. Their families have come to New Zealand after experiencing many difficulties. These Programmes are designed to make them feel welcome and at home in New Zealand.

Another interesting I have learnt about New Zealand is that: weaving is an important activity. The Maori who were the first ones to settle in these islands, are very good at weaving flax and making beautiful objects with them. The most common object is a kete. There are many types of ketes, they are used for many things but the most important thing about weaving is that each flax that is used has to be in the right place and position so that it can be useful and beautiful. Rimbrook’s refugee programs for children and girls are all about weaving relationships and friendships so that everyone becomes part of a big kete, the whole of New Zealand well put together!


This is a Kete!

Now I will tell you which are the activities I have participated in during the last months in Rimbrook.

Girls2Girls Connection

‘The programme is about creating new friendships despite speaking different languages and backgrounds.’

Girls2Girls Connection is a leadership and mentoring program for teenage girls from refugee backgrounds. It is a project of Refugee Orientation Centre Trust (ROC Trust) Rimbrook organises and trains the volunteers who participate in these activities on a regular basis. Each refugee girl has a mentor with whom she can have one to one conversation and progress in her journey of settling in New Zealand and becoming integrated in her new country.

This programme is about giving the opportunity to girls from 12 years to 16 years old to know themselves better and enjoy learning new things and doing something with others. I have seen girls from different countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Colombia trying to reach out to others as much as possible.

During the Easter Holidays, from April 15 to 16, I was involved in its organisation of one of the Girls2Girls Connection activities. This activity took place at the Wellbeing Hub in the University of Waikato.


I had an amazing experience. I was in charge of the photography. Taking pictures is one of my hobbies! I love taking pictures at the unexpected moment, they are always the best.

June one of the new leaders said this about her experience as a volunteer: ‘It is incredible how these girls from different countries can make friends easily. I used to stay with people from the same culture as me, stuck with them, but I discover to talk to others, has been a great experience for me’.

The two days were very intense. The girls really enjoyed themselves by achieving different activities like: running races and bowling, on the first day, newspaper crafts and beauty workshops, on the second day. The workshops are always a good opportunity for the girls to think about themselves and how they see their future, which was the topic of the programme.

The programme is about creating new friendships despite speaking different languages and backgrounds. I have seen girls enjoying themselves but also learning about their personality and plan their future. The girls participated in different workshops and I think they really love the workshop on exterior and interior beauty.

The Girls2Girls Connection is a great opportunity for all the girls to meet new girls from the same age and to discover what they have in common.

The eight volunteer leaders were aware of what was going on, they were very active and participated in all activities. When we help one another, we can grow even if we don’t realize it. The girls as well as the leaders were excited about all the activities held.

Vika is a resident from Indonesia and lives in Rimbrook Study Centre, she leads a lot of these programmes and really enjoys every moment: ‘The Beauty workshop was amazing, the girls helped each other to put makeup on. We can be friends with people from different countries or cultures, and with the Girls2Girls I can see how this works.’

I think this programme brings everyone, the leaders and the girls, lots of fun, joy and the happiness of being together. We want these refugee girls to be a part of New Zealand: ‘He whānau kotahi tātou’ (We are one family). By welcoming refugee girls, we are sure to bring harmony and diversity in this wonderful country!


I will not deny that running these programmes takes a lot of preparation. Everything needs to be prepared. We were 8 leaders and we managed the timetables and activities well. The Rimbrook staff and volunteers try their best to make these two days incredible, for the girls and for the leaders too! I did my best to make these two days outstanding for the girls. We did everything with love and passion!

I have seen one girl from Colombia trying to make friends with people from different countries. Not just stay with people from her same language.

I could tell that a teenager from Afghanistan always looks energetic during the programme. She enjoyed running and playing football. She also offered her friends cookies during the morning tea. She tried hard to be involved and won all the challenges she encountered.

I witness another programme participant from Congo always smiled to the camera and was very positive. She enjoyed all the activities, especially bowling.

From my own perspective, I have seen the girls smiling to the camera, focusing during the workshops, enjoying activities, helping one another. I must say that my European vision of the refugees has changed a lot! I am sure this is thanks to my participation in the two programmes with the Refugee Girls, I met in the Girsl2Girls Connection, and the Refugee Kids, in the Refugee Holiday Programme.

Holiday Programme for Refugee Children

‘They always smiled and enjoyed playing with everyone. It is always very nice to see children enjoying the little and simple things of life.’


This Programme (run by Rimbrook and ROC Trust) is for boys and girls from 5 to 13 years old, it takes place during the school holidays.  The one I attended was during the Easter Holidays, from the 15th to the 18th of April, and took place at the Frankton School Hall.

This four-day programme is a great opportunity for kids to do many fun activities, meet and play with new friends from different countries and languages. There is a team of eight leader and the children are well taken care of all the time. They participate in many activities like soccer, drawing or crafts. The kids are also able to dance, use play-dough, decorate biscuits, and of course, they really enjoy the afternoon water fight!

The Refugee Holiday Programme is organised with the same idea as the Girls2Girls Connection, but the children are younger and much more dynamic! My tasks in this activity were to organise and participate in this programme by taking pictures.

I must confess that this programme was a little bit harder for me than the Girls2Girls. There are many more children and us leaders had to be more focused and be, at all times, aware of what is happening. I love kids and seeing them playing end enjoying their childhood was just amazing! They were always enthusiastic and enjoyed all types of activities. They always smiled and enjoyed playing with everyone.

It is always very nice to see children enjoying the little and simple things of life. This is the great gift these kids have, and I think we’ve got a lot to learn from their behavior. Innocence of their hearts is such a gift we have to aim for too!

This is the beauty of these children, they have experienced war and violence, but they still find a way to play and have fun. It is amazing!  I have seen that what we say about kids is true, they need love, attention and playing games. They can forget the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to a bright future in their new country.


Amelia, one of the volunteers and a student at Waikato University, is very excited about this programme, ‘I love the holiday program! It was so much fun getting to know the girls and planning fun activities to do. My favorite part was watching the girls socialise, enjoy themselves and try new activities. I have learned that I love meeting new people and putting smiles on their faces.’ They have been hard times too, such as condensing all our activities into a small-time frame. We wanted to do so much together!’.

Personally, my participation in this programme was a bit difficult for me, but I have learnt and grown so much thanks to the kids and example of the leaders!

Marianne, a Rimbrook resident, is very spontaneous : ‘This programme is a great opportunity to get out of your comfort, see the reality of the world. Everyone thinks that New Zealand has a good lifestyle, but sometimes it’s hard to see the immigration problem but these kids deserve to have this opportunity to enjoy themselves’. Marianne really enjoyed participating in this Programme, ‘I think the best moment was when the kids asked me to play soccer with them and I actually play with them. We were having a lot of fun. The good thing is that everyone can play soccer!’

Homemade Happiness

‘The main idea of this programme is to make the girls responsible at home by learning here, at Rimbrook, how to do well the little things that help them to participate in the tasks at home and learn the importance of good living skills which make living in a home a happy and pleasant experience.’


Homemade Happiness is a very popular Programme amongst the girls who come to Rimbrook. The one I participated in took place in Rimbrook, during the Easter Holidays, from the 25th to the 26th of April. This programme is for girls, attending school, from Years 7 to 10. Several of the girls attend other activities that are organised at Rimbrook during the year.

Many events take place in Rimbrook! Homemade Happiness is the one I was involved with. This programme was organised by Monica and Lynda.

I helped with the workshops and cooked with the girls. There was lots of laughter and fun!

Through the workshops and by learning practical skills the girls discovered the joy of serving and making others happy. The main idea of this programme is to make the girls responsible at home by learning here, at Rimbrook, how to do well the little things that help them to participate in the tasks at home.

They have learnt the importance of good living skills which make living in a home an happy and pleasant experience. Girls have achieved by learning new skills such as cooking a nice meal, setting the table, cleaning the home, and doing all these things in an efficient and easy way. I can say I have learnt heaps of things during this programme! I am ready to give my bedroom a new look too!

During the two days, the girls learnt many things! How to make a bed and how to fold clothes properly are some of the activities they practiced. One of the things we all learnt is that smiling while working at home is the key to success!

The best part and the one that was most fun was cooking the dinner and enjoying the banquet we prepared! They really enjoy cooking. One of us the girls told me: ‘It is amazing how giving to others and cooking for them can be so much fun’. Another one laughed and said: ‘Now I know how to make my bed properly and how to put the pillow case in one shot!’

The second day of Homemade Happiness was really exciting too! Girls had a workshop about how to design and decorate their bedroom. It was interesting!

In the morning, they practiced what they were taught. Inspired by some pictures from different interior decoration magazines, the girls made some bedroom decorations. The key message is to decorate your bedroom with your favorite colours and objects. Go and have a try, you’ll see how it works!

I think that the girls really enjoyed themselves. By sharing the little things together, they have learnt so much about their own personality and their likes, and dislikes. They have learnt about themselves and about how they can make their homes a pleasant happy place for all the family to enjoy!

I hope you enjoy my blog about these three activities I have been involved in! It is now time for me to say goodbye to this incredible country at the bottom of the earth! I will never forget New Zealand and all these amazing people I have met through my 6 months. I will miss everything about New Zealand: the people, the culture, the language, and of course, the Nature with these breathtaking scenery!

I leave New Zealand with my head full of memories, places I have been, and people I have met!

I can’t wait to come back to New Zealand to discover other wonderful areas!

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What is the secret to finding happiness? In search of an answer, high school students traveled as long as nine hours to unpack the mystery of happiness and to discover exactly how much they could make an impact at home. The week-long Homemade Happiness seminar was filled with practical sessions, workshops and great meals. By the end, the group left tired but excited to start creating happiness at home. 

Homemade Happiness, held in April 2016, was the inaugural seminar held in the Southern Hemisphere of its kind. The seminar mirrored the international forum for young people: Incontro Romano. The seminar hoped to spark an interest on the importance of human dignity, the family and the work of the home. Realising the necessity of these core topics for society, sponsors contributed $xx to enable students to attend.  

"It's so important for young people to understand the inestimable value of people and to act accordingly. The more who hear this message the better", commented one anonymous sponsor. 

The 'My Kitchen Rules' challenge was a highlight for the girls. Each night one team was scheduled to prepare the meal, decorate the dining room and coordinate dinner service. Head chef and judge, Corina Assen, directed kitchen operations. After a brief Master Class, the team got straight into producing for a crowd of over 30 people. While the kitchen was a flurry of whisks and pots, the dining room was transformed into a formal restaurant. 

"Cooking for each their peers is showing the girls one way they can think of others. With their excitement, they're demonstrating a true example of joyful self-giving!" comments Corina during kitchen preparation. At 6:30 on the dot, the proud chefs were ready to serve their meal. "I wonder if mum feels this nervous before she serves dinner every night", said Milou Sopers from Hamilton.

The girls discovered that they did not need to look very far in order to find happiness. The answer was simple: Happiness comes as a result of joyful self-giving. "Having a positive impact on the world is easier than I thought," commented Maria Helbano, a student from Wellington. "It's in showing affection for my parents through small things like smiling. It's in overcoming my moodiness when I'm tired, and ultimately it's in having other people in mind instead of myself all the time. Okay, maybe it's not so easy!" The daily workshops gave a stable foundation for each girl to realise that she is a vital element in her family with an ability to make a great positive impact.

The girls were also given the opportunity to present to each other their own ideas on homemade happiness. Sixteen year old student Rebecca Baird, ran a session on "All things Meringue". A group from Auckland put together a short film on discovering the joy of self-giving and Kiara Japon from Australia presented a video on the meaning of family. 

On the final day, the girls were sad to pack up their things and go their separate ways. "It helps to know that I have friends all over the country, and even in Australia, trying to make a difference" said Therese Mettrick from the Kapiti Coast. Homemade happiness is centred on helping students discover their responsibility for contributing to the happiness of others. With the urgent need for strong families all over the world, Homemade Happiness 2016 hopes to be the first seminar of many. 


Joining forces with the Refugee Orientation Centre Trust, Rimbrook ran its 14th Refugee Holiday Program this year. The project was designed as a leadership-building opportunity for high-school students across New Zealand. After a gruelling interview, a group of 8 girls were selected to make up the team. Students were chosen from Wellington, Whakatane, Hamilton and Auckland. Since the 2011 inauguration, 68 student leaders have passed through the program .

Across five days, leaders take the refugee children through a series of  constructive activities; playing soccer, making monsters, performing in talent quests to name a few. Vivian, the manager of Rimbrook commented, "We don't give them much, but they - the leaders too - get a lot out of it." All the activities give the leaders a chance to teach the children what the Kiwi life is like, to practice their English and to have a good time.

The dingy hall with cracked walls and no electricity seems like a paradise compared to what these kids have seen.  Corruption and fear forces many families to flee their original homes and escape to New Zealand each year. Hamilton is becoming home to countless refugees from Afghanistan, Colombia, Congo, Iraq and Somalia. A number of them are children who suffer from isolation, culture shock and insecurity.

Elodie, mother of four, spoke with the leaders. In broken English she explained her family’s story.

"My husband was a bus driver. We were frightened so my husband took six families on the bus to escape Congo." After a few hours they entered a forest area near the countries border. A band of soldiers was hiding in the trees. The soldiers swarmed around the bus, dragged Elodie’s husband from the driver's seat and forced him onto his knees. Waving their clubs, they screamed for him to abandon the families. When he refused, they beat him to death. Elodie strapped her twins to her front and back and carried the baby. She and her eldest daughter walked for two days until they reached the Ugandan camp. In January, they were granted refugee status in New Zealand.

"I don’t think the kids quite realise how much they’re affecting us," Simone Stoove, 16 year old Deputy Head Girl of Whakatane High commented. "They show us how to be happy with the simple pleasures of life. With their past it makes you wonder how they can smile again. It’s really putting things into perspective."

By day five, everyone had become attached to the kids. After an emotional goodbye the leaders went home tired but happy and embracing a new view on the important things in life.