It’s a long way from Colombia – some 12,075 km – but that’s not stopping the enthusiasm of a class of young students to save New Zealand’s Māui dolphins.
A class of 16 students, aged six to seven-years-old from Colegio Albania in Colombia’s La Guajira region were inspired to join the Māui Dolphin Challenge, by writing 63 stories to save the last 63 Māui dolphins.
The Māui Dolphin Challenge, a WWF-New Zealand campaign, challenges people to fundraise by pledging to do something involving the number 63 to save the last 63 Māui dolphins, the smallest and rarest marine dolphin in the world. Whether it’s walking 63 kilometres or picking up 63 kilograms of rubbish, people across the country and overseas are signing up to take part in creative fundraising challenges.
Under the guidance of their New Zealand teacher Nicole Panoho, the class goal is to create and write 63 stories in both Spanish and English.
“Writing the stories in English can be difficult but the kids are really excited about the Challenge, and have been asking to write stories all the time which has been awesome. They are working so well and are on track to write 63 stories to save the 63 Māui dolphins,” Ms Panoho said.
Originally from Whangarei, New Zealand, primary school teacher Ms Panoho has been teaching internationally for five years, including one year in Colombia.
“A big part of my goal as a teacher is that my class can really connect with the things we learn about, and that they can communicate their ideas, opinions and feelings confidently,” she said.
“The inspiration to share the story of Māui dolphins with my students came directly from them, after they enjoyed hearing New Zealand Māori legends about Māui and completed a lesson about interconnectedness of living things.
“They understood how humans can have a positive or negative impact on the environment, and that they have a responsibility to take care of their planet. The students felt sad that there are only 63 Māui dolphins left.
“Māui dolphins are part of the rare, special beauty that Aotearoa has to offer and I don’t want to see them disappear from our planet.
“It makes me really happy to be able to raise awareness for the Māui dolphins’ cause. To see my students being so motivated to achieve this goal and so curious and caring about the world around them is one of the best parts about my job.
“We want to make a positive effect on the environment by raising money to help Māui dolphins.”
In the words of some Colegio Albania students:
“Writing different stories is fun. Helping Māui dolphins is a caring thing to do.” (Andrea Fonseca)
“We are happy to help this dolphin because it is special to us.” (Daniel Sanabria)
“Sometimes it is hard (to write stories in English), but I think it’s important to help living things because they are all important to the earth.” (Jacobo Gallo)
“Māui Dolphin Challenge is a cool thing to do and I am proud to do it.” (Isabel Aragon)
“I think the Māui Dolphin Challenge is fun because I can help animals in other parts of the world.” (Valery Daza)
“It is cool and fun, but it is a little bit difficult to write lots of stories in time. I am so happy to be helping to save the Māui dolphin.” (Valentina Arango)
WWF-New Zealand Campaigner David Tong said: “Māui dolphins are found only off the west coast of the North Island – nowhere else in the world, and they’re right on the brink of extinction”.
“Together we’re aiming for a world where Māui dolphins are a common sight in the waters of Aotearoa New Zealand, but to achieve this goal we need help.”
This year’s Challenge has attracted the support of a diverse range of New Zealanders including actress Anna Hutchison, stencil artist Flox, singer-songwriter Jamie McDell, students from Massey University, iconic New Zealand brands like Raglan Coconut Yoghurt, and businesses like café Dear Jervois.
How to get involved in the Māui Dolphin Challenge:
1. Choose a challenge – no matter how big or small.
2. Create a fundraising page at mauidolphin.org.nz
3. Get your friends and family to sponsor you – spread the word far and wide!
4. If you aren’t able to take a challenge yourself, you may like to sponsor an existing challenge at www.everydayhero.co