Duffy trip hayden j weal

Duffy Books Trip Part 1 – Invercargill and Bluff

I’m traveling the deep south of New Zealand in a hired car, staying in motels and chatting to young kiwi kids about reading and filmmaking every day.

It’s like a genie appeared, “What’s your ideal way to spend your time, Hayden J.?”

And it’s granted.

I’ll tell you how, and why, I’m here. Duffy Books in Homes.

 

Hayden J. Weal Bluff hill

I got to walk around Bluff hill!

 

Duffy Books in Homes is a charitable foundation started by Alan Duff, author of Once Were Warriors (yeesh – grisly kiwi story there) which provides a minimum of five books a year to over 100,000 kiwi kids scattered throughout 530 low decile schools.

 

St Teresa's School Bluff duffy

Enthusiastic kids at St. Teresa’s school in Bluff were stoked on the books

 

Basically, Alan Duff wanted more adults to encourage more kids to read, and the key to getting that happening was hooking the kids young. Get them reading. Get them educating themselves unknowingly so they can grow into the kinds of people who encourage more kids to read and educate themselves and so on and so on.

 

My sexy hire car. The challenge was keeping the girls away.

My sexy hire car. At that point I knew: my biggest challenge would be keeping the girls away.

 

Duffy Heroes

 

Duffy Heroes (or Duffy Role Models) are people who’ve achieved a dream and who love reading and want to pass on their love of reading to the young ‘uns.

Grant Roa Uncle Rawiri

Grant is Uncle Rawiri in masterpiece NZ film Whale Rider

Having achieved my lifelong dream of becoming stunningly gorgeous, muscular and modest, I was put forward by a very good friend (and fantastic actor) Grant Roa to be a Duffy Role Model.

Needless to say, I was honoured and jumped at the chance.

My first school, Newfield Park School in Invercargill, were a good crowd... except for the 5 year olds who cried through my video

My first school, Newfield Park School in Invercargill, were a good crowd… except for the 5 year olds who cried through the video I showed them. Jack and Chops freaked them out.

 

I did a mini tour around the Wairarapa region last year and had a whale of a time. It’s so much fun, even though I don’t personally buy these books for the kids, or even pick them (the kids themselves pick them – a great many generous sponsor buy the books), I feel like Santa Claus rocking in there, yarning about being Bilbo and how cool reading is, then reaching into my sack and handing out books to super pumped kids.

 

This horrible woman works for parliament. She turned her phone on before landing then sniggered when I asked her to obey the rules. I reported her.

This horrible woman sat next to me on the plane. She works for parliament. She turned her phone on before landing then sniggered when I asked her to obey the rules. I reported her with pleasure.

 

They have a special Duffy song and a special assembly for the book giving. It’s an event. The schools Duffy supply for are selected from areas ‘where the children are most likely to come from bookless homes’ so imagine how much getting free books means to them. Back in my day, books were books and we’d shrug at them. These guys are genuinely excited about being gifted their very own books to take home.

 

Bluff School Duffy books in homes

An awesome class of readers at Bluff School plus a creepy dude in the middle

 

This year, Duffy celebrated it’s twenty year anniversary and the donation of TEN MILLION BOOKS viagra kaufen im internet. They held a governmental breakfast at Parliament and Dr. Ben Carson, along with the honourable Hekia Parata span some yarns for us.

 

Bluff sign post

This is mandatory in Bluff, okay? Even the locals do it.

 

There was one guy who spoke at the anniversary. Sometimes you know when you’re hearing something that you’ll never forget. Well, this guy and his speech was one of those times. He was one of the first Duffy kids ever. His school – a poor school – had been chosen for the first year of Duffy. And this guy – a young boy who was being abused at home and struggling to learn – had been gifted a book.

 

fernworth school invercargill

Sweet crowd at Fernworth school give me what they call a ‘ferny’ welcome

 

This young boy grew up into a young man, cherishing the books he received from the Duffy program, and he became an opera singer and traveled all over the world. He spoke about his life and we were all transfixed, hanging on his every word. Then he turned to Alan Duff, who was as enraptured as the rest of us, smoked salmon and hash brown breakfast going cold, untouched, and said, “I want to say – because I’ve never had the chance to say this – thank you, Alan. I don’t know if even you know how much those books meant to me.”

 

This is my sunset from the motel I'm staying in

This is my sunset from the motel I’m staying in

This is me looking at the sunset from my motel in Invercargill

This is me looking at the sunset from the motel I’m staying in

 

I was a mess, my smoked salmon extra salty from the tears drizzling down my cheeks and through my messy beard.

Weeks later, when Jacqui Whyte, Duffy Theatre administrator, asked if I’d consider a trip to the South Island to tour some schools, I couldn’t email back fast enough. With YES in capitals.

 

Takitimu school in Nightcaps win the award for the most remote location in the world

Takitimu school in Nightcaps win the award for the most remote location in the world. Drove for an hour and a half through rolling farmlands to get to them

 

Eight days. Sixteen schools. That was the plan. Easy.

The schools would be mixed sizes and the students, as usual, an eclectic variety. And it’s strange, I’ve found that at every school, no matter how big or small, there’s always one student that calls out, interrupts, disrupts, jeers, jokes, jibes or jips me. And it’s usually because they’re excited.

I must extend my thanks to all the teachers who delicately rebuked the children I struggled to deal with. The deserve a pay raise.

 

Stormy beach at Taramea point, just past Riverton.

Stormy beach at Taramea point, out of Invercargill, past Riverton.

 

In the afternoons I explore Invercargill, walk around the heritage trails and indulge in unhealthy but delicious food. I read my book, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (and wow, it’s SUCH a good book) and edit the photos I’ve taken in the day. I’m living the dream.

I have made a short video to show the kids. It features some of Jack and Chops, Hot Rob, and some stills from The Hobbit featuring me as a number of different characters. On my first day, at Newfield school, some of the younger pupils got very scared and started crying. The principal had a few stern words to me, so I’ve added a verbal disclaimer and you know what’s strange? Saying the video might be scary gets the kids even more excited to see it.

 

St Patrick's school in Nightcaps has a total of 14 students. You see all sorts.

St Patrick’s school in Nightcaps has a total of 14 students.

 

It started raining today. I took a photo of it.

 

Raindrops on the window

 

I’m halfway through the trip and already I’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm of these kids. Stay tuned because there are more photos on the way.

 

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