THIS year’s school holidays were quite different for Southland Girls’ High School pupil Olivia Braven.
Olivia, 17, and six of her schoolmates, along with their teacher Nadine Meyer, spent three weeks in Sri Lanka as part of World Challenge 2016.
While there, the group visited villages, built a fence at a school, hiked, worked with children and visited an elephant sanctuary as part of the programme.
“We got to sight-see, climb Adam’s Peak, see lots of temples, visit a tea plantation, a spice garden, markets and help out at a school,” Olivia said.
After returning last Friday, an excited and inspired Olivia said she had chosen to go to Sri Lanka because “it sounded cool to go to somewhere different”.
“No one really goes there.”
Olivia said visiting the small island in the Indian Ocean near India was “a really big culture shock, especially seeing how different it was there”.
“There are so many people, 20.48 million. Their standard of living, healthcare and schooling are so different… yet the people are so happy with the smallest things.”
The World Challenge programme also helped the pupils learn leadership and organisational skills, as they had to organise their own money, accommodation and food.
“First we had to apply to World Challenge, then we had to fundraise our own money ($7500 each) over 18 months.”
Olivia took part in the group fundraising, including a quiz night and sorting recycling, as well as individual fundraising working at a horse trek business near Te Anau.
Her personal achievement in Sri Lanka was climbing 5200 steps to the summit of Adam’s Peak.
“We wanted to see the sunrise, so began the (2243m) climb at 1.30am. It took three-and-a-half so we ended up waiting quite a while at the top for the sun to rise.”
At the summit is the “resting place of Buddha, a temple”, and near the summit is the Sri Pada (sacred footprint), a 1.8m rock formation, which in Buddhist tradition is believed to be the footprint of Buddha.
The trip was not only an opportunity to see another culture and country but the experience also gave the girls the chance to give something back to the community, which included working with school children and helping build a 2m-high, 15m-long solid fence at the Lankathilaka School.
And would she recommend others take on a World Challenge?