Auckland Airport is giving $120,000 to 12 charities as part of its annual 12 days of Christmas initiative. The Herald will profile each initiative.

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Often it's the first time a Kiwi girl from Morrinsville or Te Awamutu has hung out with a refugee from Somalia or Afghanistan, but in most cases it won't be her last. Ignite is jointly run by the YWCA Hamilton and the Shama Hamilton Ethnic Women's Centre and brings different cultures including girls from New Zealand, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chile, South Africa, China, India and Fiji together over a three-day course focusing on education, employment and finance skills. About 15 girls aged 14-18 attend the course, which started two years ago and teaches goal setting, self-defence, money skills, how to write CVs, what their employment rights are and how to keep safe in a relationship. YWCA Hamilton manager Anne Bennett said the aim of the course was to give young women from all over the world self-confidence and some basic life tools. "It's about inspiring future leaders." The $10,000 grant from Auckland Airport would enable at least two more courses to be run in July and October 2017 as previously funding sources had dried up. "They come from different cultural settings and get to know each other - girls who wouldn't normally come across each other. "How else does a girl from Morrinsville or Te Awamutu liaise with someone from Somalia?" Bennett said. Many of the girls were also thrown outside their comfort zone when they were taken to the Avanti Velodrome near Cambridge and told to ride around it on a brakeless bike. Bennett said some of the refugees had never been on a bike before but bravely gave it a go on the steep velodrome, creating memories that they would never forget and providing endless entertainment for their teammates. Both organisations relied heavily on volunteers so the girls were also encouraged to get involved in areas that interested them. Bennett said the feedback from past participants had been positive and some girls had even attended both courses in the same year because there was so much to take in. "There are a lot of smiles. They overcome their nervous anticipation. "They come as strangers and leave as friends." Auckland Airport general manager of people and safety Anna Cassels-Brown said the programme linked well to the airport's role in welcoming people across from the world. "We love the role we play in bringing people together and we're thrilled to support a charity that's connecting young women from different cultures and helping them build leadership skills."