Rugby: Smith rallies ABs to help fund college trip

Under privileged families in Mexico will benefit from an Otumoetai College community project next year that has been helped by a generous donation from All Black Conrad Smith.

A group of 34 students and adults will travel to Mexico in April to construct and furnish two houses paid for by the group's own fundraising.

The deserving families are selected by BreakFree Expeditions, which is organising the trip, and it will be the second time a group from the school has made the journey to Mexico.

The first house was built by students last year for a family that had been living on a dirt floor with old packing cases for walls and no services.

The two new houses will be built next door and it is hoped that over the years a community of houses will be established by successive groups from Otumoetai College.

Raising the required $40,000 to fund the project is not an easy task, but this time some help from All Black centre Smith will greatly help reach the target.

Maria Hardie, who is going on the trip along with her son, is Smith's first cousin and she contacted him to see if he could donate a jersey.

She was thrilled and surprised by his response.

"I emailed Conrad and asked him if he could spare something, a pair of sweaty socks even, and he said he would get one of his jerseys signed by the team.

"It is typical of him. He is a good family man and always supportive," she said.

Smith has donated an All Black jersey signed by all of the 2012 Investec Rugby Championship winning squad.

The framed jersey is now being auctioned on Trade Me, where it is the only jersey celebrating this inaugural win.

"This is a unique reminder of a great series for the All Blacks and it will make a great Christmas present," said Smith.

"I hope the shirt makes a healthy contribution to the student's fundraising.

"I was made aware of the group's determination to raise the $40,000 necessary by my cousin and was pleased to give them my support.

"When you think they are paying their own way to get there as well, it is a tremendous effort by the students."

Exposure to the poverty of Mexico and the gratefulness of the families had a big impact on the students who went there.

"We are so privileged in New Zealand and you realise this when visiting a country like Mexico," said 17-year-old Annie White, who was on the last trip and is going back next year.

To bid for the jersey, go to www.Trade, listing number 540079318.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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