A child’s wish brings NZMA and community together

Trades South
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Photos: Thamilini’s art studio being delivered to her house (left) Thamilini in her art studio made by NZMA Trades South (right).

As an organisation built on the transformative power of education – it’s way of bringing people together, inspiring change, and bettering communities – UP Education and its tertiary education providers throughout New Zealand are dedicated to going beyond the classroom to help the overall wellbeing of youth in our communities.

“At NZMA, we believe in fixing your own backyard before you try to fix the world, that’s why our Trades South Campus got behind granting the wish of 13-year-old Thamilini based in Auckland,” says Vau Atonio, Campus Manager at NZMA Trades Auckland.

Thamilini was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 10-years-old. Her wish was to have her very own art studio adorned with her favourite pastel colours and cartoon characters to live out her passion for art and escape the everyday struggles of her illness.

Part of the Make-A-Wish journey is to build hope for children to get really excited about their wish delivery.

Last year, Thamilini shared her wish with Make-A-Wish New Zealand, sketching her dream art studio on a piece of paper.

With the right skills and attitude to do the job, NZMA Trades South jumped at the opportunity to make Thamilini’s wish come true – donating their time and money to make the project possible.

“Thamilini’s enduring spirit, even after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, is a beacon of the sort of bravery and optimism the world needs right now. We couldn’t let her down,” says Vau.

“At NZMA Trades, we’re committed to tikanga, whanaungatanga and a tuakana teina philosophy. This defines our student culture and values that not only benefits our communities, but also the tauira of our student cohort.”

“Our philosophy is to treat everyone with respect, and to understand that we are all individuals with different dreams, pressures and needs – that is a big reason why our students feel a sense of family, purpose and community at NZMA.”

In July 2021, the NZMA team started a community group to gather over sixty volunteers to build and paint Thamilini’s art studio.

“It was no easy feat working on the art studio during Auckland’s four-month lockdown. But the South and West Auckland community really banded together to make this happen – showing the sense of service of our community despite their financial hardships.”

“The team and students at NZMA went above and beyond, working throughout lockdown and in the weekends to make Thamilini’s wish come true,” says Abby.

Abby Hunt is a full-time teacher. She has seen first-hand how collective social responsibility is creating a domino effect among school students – allowing them to work together towards a common goal, boosting morale and improving their overall wellbeing.

Thousands of students across Kōwhai Intermediate, Gladstone Primary, Mount Albert Grammar, Mount Albert Primary and Owairaka District School came together to contribute to Thamilini’s wish – collectively fundraising $4,500 through a single donation from Mazda for making 4,500 paper cranes.

After subsequent lockdowns, the NZMA and Make-A-Wish team persevered setbacks and surprised Thamilini on the last day of school with a fully furbished art studio identical to her drawings.

“Usually very chatty, Thamilini was speechless. She couldn’t believe it. To have a safe space for her to be herself and to do what she enjoys is just priceless. Such a kindness will go a long way in her recuperation and wellbeing journey.”

“Communities, businesses and families working together is key to the work we do at Make-A-Wish. It’s organisations like NZMA that play an important role in our ability to deliver wishes,” says Pam Elgar, Make A Wish CEO.

“To build something just to learn a skill is one thing, but to build something for a purpose, for a child in mind, that encompasses everything that we are about at NZMA – whanaungatanga, manaakitanga and wairuatanga,” says Vau.

“We hope our collaboration with Make-A-Wish influences other organisations to work with Make-A-Wish New Zealand and other local charities to enhance the mana and tairua of our communities.”

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