Ōmahu School students have been through a lot over the last four months after their school and some of their homes were inundated with flood waters when the Ngaruroro River breached its banks during Cyclone Gabrielle.
Currently based at the Irongate School hall, the Ōmahu School kids received a warm winter surprise when Lee Pepping and Suzanne Rose from Thermals for Children dropped off several boxes of thermals and track pants for them.
Pepping and Rose were welcomed into the Irongate School hall by Ōmahu principal Te Kenewa White. The students saw the two women carrying big boxes and were wondering what was going on.
The students were excited and so were the Thermals for Children founders as it was the first time they have been able to give the thermals directly to the students.
“I was so special to see their anticipation and enthusiasm,” Pepping said.
She said it is challenging for the students and their teachers to be in the hall at another school, “but they are making the most of the present situation and we sensed that they are happy even though it is not ideal”.
The kids gathered around the two women in a semi-circle and listened attentively while Pepping and Rose briefly shared with them about the Thermals for Children project - how many schools, how much money is needed, what the clothes are like, where we get them from.
Supported by the Catholic Parish of Hastings, Thermals for Children fundraises and supplies local schools with hundreds of thermals and track pants bundles each winter.
This year they raised more than $26,000 for 1377 sets of thermals and track pants that will be delivered to 30 schools in the region.
Once the teachers started taking the clothing out of the boxes, Pepping said the kids seemed very excited that the clothing was all for them.
After the Thermals for Children founders finished talking most of the kids gave a speech thanking Pepping and Rose and the people of the Catholic Parish of Hastings for gifting them the warm clothing as well as making the effort to bring the clothing to them and for talking to them about the project.
Pepping said the kids were interested in what she and Rose talked about.
“They were very grateful for our gift to them all and seemed very happy that their school is the first school that we have met all of the students and staff.”
Each kid spoke beautifully and with confidence and they then sang a beautiful waiata for the two women about Omahu School.
“It was quite emotional to hear the kids and their teachers sing with passion about their school,” Pepping said.
This is the first time the Ōmahu School has taken part in Thermals for Children and principal Te Kenewa White said his students were over the moon.
“Their smiles gleamed, their eyes sparkled and their sounds of laughter filled our learning space.
“The students listened attentively to Lee Pepping; they were intrigued by her commentary and asked appropriate questions afterwards and most certainly enjoyed the photo shot with the newspaper’s photographer,” White said.
As Hawke’s Bay moves into the colder months it’s important the children have warm clothes that fit and the Omahu School principal explained it’s important to dress appropriately by having insulated clothing. With thermals that act like a second skin keeping arms, core and legs warm students can still go outside and play in the cold weather and be happy.
“I’m very thankful groups and organisations are thinking of Ōmahu School in particular Pepping and her church group,” he said.
“People from around Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia and Israel have kindly given items ranging from handmade quilts to knitted scarfs and hats, cards, letters, books and thousands of dollars,” he said.
Pepping and Rose aim to have all 1377 sets of track pants and thermal or merino long-sleeved tops delivered to participating schools by the end of May, just in time for the beginning of winter on June 1.