If these St Kevin’s College pupils are not creating history, they are at least creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
A handful of pupils at the Oamaru school are about to visit Cuba.
It is not the sort of thing that can be easily verified, but organiser Michelle Buckham, who teaches geography and tourism at St Kevin’s, thinks it may be the first visit to Cuba by a New Zealand or Australian secondary school.
“As far as I can ascertain, we are the first school group from New Zealand, and possibly Australia, to go on a field trip to Cuba,” she said.
“An Australian educational tour company contacted me late last year asking me to share our itinerary with them. They admitted that, although they offer school tours to Cuba, no schools had yet booked one.”
The purpose of the trip was to learn about the culture and the people in Cuba.
Although not an official trip from the school, everybody heading there would be associated with the college.
The idea emerged in July 2016 when Mrs Buckham asked her year 11 geography pupils if they wanted to travel to Cuba.
The response was an overwhelming “yes”.
“I was determined to make it happen.”
The pupils leave on April 15 and return on April 29.
They will initially stay in Vinales, a town in western Cuba, where they can acclimatise to cooler weather in the mountains before heading to the hotter cities.
Pupils have spent the past year doing part-time jobs to save up for the journey.
Anna Craig, one of the Cuban group, said she could not believe the wait was nearly over.
“We’re off to Cuba – we can’t believe it.
“Mrs Buckham has done an amazing job organising everything for us.”
Mrs Buckham said she had spent “hundreds” of hours organising the trip.
“Organising this has been a been a big part of my life for the last year and a-half.
“This project is either the best idea or the craziest idea of my life.”
The teacher’s passion for the country, which she has visited twice, ignited when she worked as a photographer on cruise ships that travelled in and around the Caribbean.
Two pupils going on the trip will be taking photos for their NCEA portfolios.
Some of the “anticipated” highlights of the tour would include walking through preserved military trenches in Havana from the Cuban Missile Crisis, snorkelling in the Bay of Pigs and taking a tour of Havana in a classic 1950s American car, Mrs Buckham said.
Pupils would also give their support to the residents of Baracoa, a city devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Oamaru businesses had donated items such as school supplies, toiletry samples and pet food to help people in the city.
Donated items would be dropped off in Havana, where a representative from Baracoa would collect the supplies and distribute them across the community.
The St Kevin’s Justice Awareness Group (JAG) turned the supplies into gifts that would be taken on the trip.
Caleb Jopson, a member of JAG, said the group had spent about a year organising gifts for those affected in the city.
“We’ve got heaps of clothes, toys, books, pens and pencils – all those little things that we take for granted that people over there don’t have access to.”