Celia Lashlie, in her book “He’ll be Okay: growing gorgeous boys into good men” talks about “crossing the bridge of adolescence” and the need for boys to have the opportunity to have positive male role models and take steps away from the protective arms of their mothers. To have a place that allows them to take some risks, to challenge themselves, learn what they can do, find out about the impact of their actions on others and learn to make good choices.
At the moment Gus is away on Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. He is halfway through a five week stay there as part of his Year 10 Curriculum at Hillcrest High School. They have no technology except on Sundays, they are sharing accommodation with other boys, cooking their own meals, doing their own washing and learning to fend for themselves under the watchful eyes of two teachers and the OPC staff.
As well as all that they have their lessons in classrooms but, more importantly, outside the classroom. Learning as they play and work. Learning as they kayak, tramp, coasteer, skipper boats, fish, swim. Learning as they help in the community, visit local residents, talk to them and observe their way of life.
We are kept in touch with what they do through the FaceBook page where the teachers add photos and comments about what the boys are up to and we get a weekly, very crackly, phone call home.
However, this trip the boys have been hit with rather more than they bargained for! Ten days into their trip high winds and lashing rain wrought havoc across New Zealand but was especially severe in the Hauraki Gulf. The stream that had been a trickle became a raging torrent, sweeping mud and debris through the camp, into the classrooms and bringing down walkways and footbridges. Fortunately they were all safe but were without power, clean water, or sanitation. We received an email warning us that the boys may need to be sent home but in the end, the situation was assessed and it was decided that it was safe to keep them on the island and put them to work helping out with the cleaning up process. What a fantastic learning opportunity for them! Judging by the photographs and the news report, they have rebuilt paths, cleaned up buildings, helped local residents, moved debris and dug out water channels.
The weather for the clean up appears to have been good and the photos show the boys enjoying sunshine and clear skies. They have also still managed to go out on expeditions and have some fun. We parents are all proud of our boys for the work they have been doing and food parcels have been winging their way to GBI at a great rate of knots if the man in the post office is to be believed.
I think our boy will come home having well and truly taken his first steps across that bridge. He had mixed emotions about going away for five weeks – excitement mingled in probably equal measure with apprehension. But I guess that is how it should be at the age of fourteen. We have missed him and will be happy when he is home, but we have enjoyed scanning the photos on Facebook for glimpses of him (he has a habit of hiding!) and reading the updates from the teachers, hearing his voice in the crackly phone calls and knowing that he is having fun, he is learning and he is growing.
See you soon Big Gus!