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By Tara Carr

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Sept. 27) – It was a challenge to get to the Cook Islands for a group of college students from Whakatane in New Zealand but they say it has been worth it.

Form six and seven students from Edgecumbe College in New Zealand return home this week after spending a week on Rarotonga as part of their senior Maori language class.

Teacher Joe Waerehu says the trip allowed the 15 students to look at the historical links of the Mataatua Waka from the Whakatane area to Rarotonga.

The students visited Avana, marae and historical sites for their studies.

Waerehu says the decision to travel to Rarotonga was made last year in November. Fundraising started but things proved hard for the students when the Whakatane area was devastated by flooding.

"But we had come too far to turn back so we just plodded along and somehow made it here," says Waerehu. "We wanted them to meet the whanaunga/relations outside of their little world in New Zealand, so they can see that there is another world out there. We chose Rarotonga because of its links with the Maori people."

This has been the first trip by the Edgecumbe College Maori department since a trip to Hawai'i in the 1990s.

Waerehu, who was assisted by chaperones, says she has been very pleased with the trip and the opportunity to bring the students to Rarotonga for the experience and the knowledge they have gained.

October 3, 2005

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