When Cyclone Gabrielle smashed into the upper and eastern north island in February, the East Coast town of Wairoa was among the hardest hit.
Schools closed, families lost their homes and, needless to say, recreation opportunities were severely limited.
“After the cyclone everyone was kind of down and depressed,” says Gisborne Gymnastics Club coach Nicola Ludwig.
“The kids needed some fun, some different things coming to the region other than silt and water!”
Jo Doyle, the principal at Wairoa’s St Joseph’s School, reached out to the Gisborne Gym Club to help.
Doyle had sourced funding to run a gymnastics programme at the school – but following the cyclone she decided to open up the programme to all of the region’s schools.
Nine schools – ranging from pre-school through to college – participated in the programme.
“It was very well received and we had 53 sessions over 11 weeks,” says Doyle.
“The children enjoyed learning something new and you could see them growing confidence in moving and manipulating their bodies as the sessions went on.
“We do not have a gymnastic club in Wairoa so being able to have a skilled instructor like Nicole was an amazing opportunity for teachers to see how to teach gymnastics.
“It was a very successful programme that reached out into our community and enabled many children to participate and GIVE IT A GO!”
The programme was “pretty basic” but also very cool, says Ludwig.
“We had one beam, parallel bars, some springboards and some mats – but we made it a really good programme.
“The idea was also to teach the teachers how to do a programme with very little equipment. Showing them step-by-step how to teach a forward roll and a backwards roll.
“It was breaking it down into small steps and progressions so the kids came out of it super happy having learned cartwheels and rolls and having had a great time.”