Maketū's Pomare Butler got her first taste of travel while at Te Puke Intermediate School.

A visit to Samoa opened her eyes to the vastness and diversity of the world — and she wanted more.

The opportunity for more came at high school when Pomare visited South East Asia with the annual Malaysia and Singapore Educational Adventure.

Now, thanks to a Maketū Rotary Club initiative that has chosen her idea, Dragon's Den-style, to receive funding from the club, she intends to give others from the district the chance to see more of the world.

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Her plan is to take around a dozen local youngsters to Vanuatu.

The 2012 visit to Samoa gave her the travel bug, a bug so strong she moved heaven and earth to get the money to pay for her Malaysia and Singapore trip.

"While I was over there I saw so many sad things — poverty and homelessness, but I had the best time and really enjoyed the experience.

"When I got back I really appreciated New Zealand. I love my country and I always did, but I loved it even more because of what I'd seen when I was overseas."

Last year, she heard about the Maketū Rotary Club initiative — and she began the process of selling her idea to the club.

"They said, you come up with an idea and whichever project we choose, we'll fund $10,000 towards your big plan.

"My plan was to take some of the underprivileged local kids from Maketū, Pukehina and Pongakawa and organise an overseas trip and I instantly thought about the [Pacific] Islands because they are closest.

Vanuatu was chosen partly for that reason and partly because of existing projects Rotary are involved in there.

"I thought it would be cool to take a group of about 12 of us to Vanuatu because there's a school there that doesn't have any water — so I thought it would be cool if we could go over there and build them a water catchment system.

"The objective was for these kids from here, to take them and expose them to the world and help those kids who don't even have access to fresh water — I thought, OK, that's my plan, let's go guys."

The Rotary project was driven by president Coin Olesen who wanted to create a greater link between the club and young people. He borrowed the principals of the Secondary School Student Community Project Award programme from Armidale Rotary Club in New South Wales.

The first chance to discuss ideas with Rotary club members was in August last year, with ongoing discussion, mentoring and help from members until judging last month.

"So it was me and a few other Rotarians who were interested in my idea," says Pomare.
"We'd meet up once, maybe twice a week."

She says there is so much she wants for the youngsters who are chosen for the trip.

"It will be huge for them even to have their own passport.''

Those going with Pomare will have to raise some of the money for the trip themselves.

"That was a big thing for me as well, going overseas."

Money was tight, and Pomare was told she might have to wait for another opportunity.

"I thought 'hell, no', I've already been to Samoa and it was amazing, I want to go somewhere else, so I got a job at Maketū fish and chip shop and ended up being there for three years. I did some kiwifruit and worked at Maketū hauora holiday programme - just what I could grab.''

She also got a grant from Maketū Rotary Club.

''The whole community was right behind me — I'd go to the markets and sell nothing but still have a lot of money because people were putting it in for my trip.''

She says raising the money that way was a lesson.

''So I want people who want to go to have to do something for it. It helped me gain a work ethic I have now, and it felt more rewarding having all that money earned. I worked for it, and that was a good feeling when I was over there.''

Pomare says working on her idea with Rotarians has opened her eyes.

''I think it's good because it strengthens our relationship with the Rotarians. Us young kids, we don't really know about them - we knew they gave us dictionaries at school — that's all we knew them for. It's not until you get older that you realise they actually do so much in our community.''

Colin says the club has the contacts and expertise to help with the project, and members expect to be asked and involved in it.

"We are confident Pomare has the gifting, the talent, the passion, the drive to make this project not just happen, but to positively impact on the lives of many people in our Maketū, Paengaroa and Pukehina communities."

He says for some, the experience will be life changing.

''Our reward will be to see those changed lived and to share in the euphoria of each person's experience and memories.''