Lions International Youth Camp participants visited Opotiki recently to experience authentic Maori culture.
The 48 youths from all over the world arrived at Maromahue Marae at Waiotahe on December 30 and stayed for 24 hours.
New Zealand Lions Club youth chairperson and Opotiki resident James Crosswell said the camp was one of their best yet - Mr Crosswell and the Opotiki Lions Club set up a visit to the Opotiki Surf Club to learn what the club was about before taking students out for a ride on the IRB. In the afternoon the students were taken around town to take in the sights and learn the history of Opotiki.
Mr Crosswell said the real highlight of their trip to Opotiki was in the evening when they got to prepare and cook a traditional hangi, and watch an interactive kapa haka performance.
"It’s a great way for our visitors to get a real cultural experience out of this country," he said. "After each camp, the students are asked to take a survey to identify what part of their camp is the most enjoyable and Opotiki comes up trumps every time," he said.
Their feedback is fed back to the American headquarters and the camp is rated based on the feedback. "The New Zealand camp is right up there as the best in the world," Mr Crosswell said.
He wanted to acknowledge the Mitai family for the time they have put in over the past five years to the youth experience.
"It’s the sort of experience they don’t get anywhere else. They used to go to Rotorua for the concert and hangi, but it was starting to get more expensive - $3000 for a three-hour concert and hangi, and they were just being entertained rather than getting a real experience.
"When they come here it’s hands on and for some of the students they’ve probably never even peeled a potato before," he said.
Mr Crossweli said Lions Club members and international visitors had been coming to Opotiki for the past 10 years.
"It’s a 10-day programme to experience all of New Zealand and our club has them for the longest." Article courtesy of Tarere Thatcher/Opotiki News