The booklet Oscar Inspires will be available from PaperPlus, price $10 Pictures of the five children courtesy Bruce Henderson.
The Kapiti Kids Motivation Trust was set up by Roger Booth in 2007 to bring sporting and cultural role models into primary schools in the Kapiti Coast district, with the aim of encouraging, motivating and inspiring children to strive for their potential, and to experience new activities.
It is has done just that. There have been over thirty visiting identities.
Sportspeople have included All Blacks Christian Cullen and Dane Coles, All Whites Tim Brown and Ben Sigmund, World BMX Champion Sarah Walker, Olympic medallists Danyon Loader and Barbara Kendall, and trans-Tasman rower Shaun Quincey.
Rob Hewitt, who survived three days in the water beyond Kapiti Island, told his story, plus his survivor’s water safety message, to children from 18 schools.
And Arts identities have featured singers Tina Cross, Ray Woolf, and Paul Ubana Jones, dancers Sir Jon Trimmer and Tanemahuta Gray, African drummer Sam Manzanza, Canadian sitar player Prosad, and visual artists Debra Bustin and Bodhi Vincent.
Oscar Kightley was born in Apia, Samoa, but moved to Auckland after his father died when Oscar was just four years old. He was brought up by his aunt and uncle in Te Atatu ‘in a typical Westie family of eight children’.
When he emerged as a writer his main subject matter was his own life, family and ethnic community. He had started as a newspaper journalist, extended into radio work, and then set up Christchurch-based theatre group Pacific Underground, for whom he co-wrote Fresh Off the Boat.
Since then the highly successful hit film Sione’s Wedding, the Bro’ Town television series, and his Naked Samoan comedy group have helped make his face a familiar one for most New Zealanders. Oscar was awarded the MNZM in 2009 for services to television and the theatre.
Oscar’s Kapiti Kids Writing Project
In 2015, 245 children from 12 schools, working in six workshops, listened to Oscar talking of his own early life experiences, did some practice work, and then wrote for Oscar.
Oscar began by checking whether the children liked various things that would demonstrate for him that they were writers and, remarkably, they all discovered that they were highly suitable.
Oscar’s chat with the children was not about his accomplishments. He talked of his childhood, and three little incidents he told stood out.
In his native Samoa, not many months after his dad died, the family got a truck, a highly exciting new addition for little Oscar. On its very first day with them, he was offered a ride in the truck, which he obviously took. Little did he know that the truck would take him to the airport, that he and his mum would fly to New Zealand, and that Mum would go home and leave him to be brought up by his aunt and uncle in West Auckland.
When Oscar soon began school, he had very little understanding of English. His teacher often clapped her hands and said something in English for the children to do one of two things. Sometimes when she clapped the kids dived under the tables for earthquake drill. At other times the children had to sit up with their arms folded. Oscar generally followed the others, but one morning ‘when I must have had a bit much sugar’ he felt extra brave. When the teacher did her thing, Oscar was the first one to dive under the table. But sadly no one joined him, because he was meant to be sitting up with his arms folded, like all the others. However, the kids laughed at his actions. He had never even got a smile from any of them before, and he had discovered a new way of communicating that he never forgot.
One day, when his class went on a school trip, Oscar’s family couldn’t afford it. So he and one other child had to spend the whole day in the library. Oscar loved it, and has loved books, stories, and consequently writing ever since.
The children did pair writing, using visual starters that they selected from a number that included kids dressed ready for Anzac Day, a girl cycling, a pile of junk, Olympic athletes, kids playing with driftwood on a beach, and an apartment building adorned with a sculptured octopus.
They shared their efforts with the others.
The children then wrote for about 45 minutes. They could choose from 12 topics. The most popular were An Exciting Day, My Worst Day, My Best Friend, My Favourite Place, and Dream Holidays. The other topics were A Disappointing Day, My Favourite Person, The Kids I Hang Out With, Family, Holidays, What I Want to Do, and What I Want to Be.
Oscar read all the stories and wrote lovely responses on each of them. Roger Booth, ex-secondary school English teacher, read them as well. Then, based primarily on Oscar’s initial recommendations, 66 pieces of individual writing were chosen for this booklet and 25 were selected for some to be displayed in three local Kapiti newspapers — Kapiti News, Kapiti Observer, and Otaki Mail; in the Ōtaki, Waikanae and Paraparaumu KCDC Libraries; and read on local radio stations Beach FM, More FM and Coast Access Radio.
Otaki Primary School
When I got off the bus after school, I walked straight home, and my mum told me to unpack my bag and then sit down, as she needed to tell me something.
I sat down on the couch, and she told me that my rabbit had passed away overnight. I burst into tears.
As I walked down to my room, tears ran down my cheeks.
I lay down on my bed and cried. I felt so ill I didn’t come out of my room for a very long time.
My rabbit’s name was ‘Sootie’. He was so gentle and soft.
I still cry for him and imagine him in my arms right now…
But I now have two other rabbits — one is white, and his name is ‘Hugs’ and one is grey and his name is ‘Thumper’. We named him Thumper because he thumps his foot on the ground when he is happy, and Hugs sometimes gives you little hugs.
And one day I hope to get a rabbit just like Sootie.
Te Horo School
When I grow up, I’m gonna be a duck. People will feed me bread 24/7, and watch me in awe as I race past the others. I’ll swim and play, dive and tumble, squabble and squawk. I’ll be the best duck ever!
When I grow up I’m gonna be a tree and a duck. I’ll just stand all day and all night. Kids will climb all over me, because I’ll be the best tree to climb. I’ll have loads of branches and knobbles to hold on to, and my bark will be like a climbing wall. Dad will build a tree hut to put on me. The tree hut will be as blue as the sky, and have a TV in it, and you’ll be able to see me the duck perform every night. I’m going to be a tree and a duck.
When I grow up I’m going to be a sandwich, a tree and a duck. I’ll be wheat bread, with spinach, feta and chicken. I’ll be extremely tasty, and people will fight over me. I’ll be the best sandwich in the universe, but no one will eat me. No. I’ll be put on display in Te Papa, and people will come from far and wide to see me, the best sandwich ever. Once they’ve seen me, they’ll climb all over me, the tree, and see me the duck perform. So, when I grow up I’ll be a duck, tree and sandwich.
The Worst Day of the Light
Once upon a time there was a light. The light was a 75 watt light and it was very old, because it was never really used. It had seen lots of other lights go into the plug and out. It was always dreading being replaced, so it was always working very hard not to be.
One day it got tired and could hardly function, so it knew that it’s time was up. The next day it started having more problems, so it got unscrewed, and then it got shipped off to the recycling dump, where it would be smashed up into lots of little pieces.
It was finally here at the dump. That was the end. The hell for light bulbs.
‘Oh, no. NOT THE DUMP PLEASE!!’ it screamed.
It was now in the recycling machine. The conveyor belt was pushing it in, and it was going fast!!
It was resisting, but the machine was too strong, just too strong.
‘Nooooo,’ it screamed, but it was no use.
That was when everything went dark. It was not sure what just happened, but it now felt stronger than ever. Someone picked it up and said, ‘I would like to buy this bulb.’
It knew that voice anywhere. It was going home.
Amanda’s worst day was the day she saw the Thing.
But I shall first describe the day prior to the day of the Thing.
That day Amanda and her ‘group’ had been bullying her next door neighbour Hannah. They excluded her from their conversations, and made sure that she felt bad. You see, Amanda was not one of those bullies who have low self-esteem and bully others to make them feel better about themselves. She simply enjoyed doing it.
However one of her closest obsessions was to read fantasy books. Often these books would have a sort of Chosen One. She would often fantasize about being one of those special people, and was sure it would happen soon.
The next day, the worst day, the weather was cloudy and dark. You could barely see anything. But then a piercing ray of light came through the clouds and a large Thing appeared. The Thing greatly resembled a sort of orb.
Amanda smiled, as she was sure this was the day when she would become the Chosen One. Her dreams were shattered when a magical being came out of the orb and said, ‘Is the Hannah girl next door?’
Te Horo School
I would like to be a great historical ruler, like Julius Caesar for example. I would want to have that sense of security that the original Roman Emperors had. And the power that Josef Stalin had. With those two things combined you have the possibility of ruling the world. Not that I would want that…
I wouldn’t do it for the money, or the fame for that matter. And I especially wouldn’t act differently to get a following. I would be honest and cunning if I needed to be.
I wouldn’t hide behind walls and guards. If I had a sense of security I wouldn’t need that. I would just need the honesty of those following me.
And if presented with the opportunity to rule the world, of course I would take it. The world back then, and even more so now, needed and needs good honest leaders to lead it. And, at this point in time, no one has what it tales. Not you or me or even the Queen.
We need strong leaders, with a touch of charisma, who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. That is why I would want to be a ruler. Not for the money, or for the fame, but for the backing of the people.
And to be the voice of the world.