Students helping city people

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Otago Polytechnic Human Services students are making a difference in Dunedin, one community project at a time. Their ‘‘Kiwi Dreams’’ exhibition featured in the Otago Polytechnic Hub this week to ‘‘showcase and celebrate’’ the efforts and achievements of the students in supporting local charities, Human Services lecturer Lisa Muir said. It was the first year the Kiwi Dreams theme had been used, which Mrs Muir said was ‘‘fitting’’ as it focused on ‘‘kiwiana’’ and New Zealand history. The 50 students formed into smaller groups to come up with projects recognising social needs or issues in the community, including raising funds and awareness for charities, environmental sustainability projects, social workshops and working bees. Mrs Muir said the staff were extremely proud of what the students had produced and of their understanding of social issues in the community. ‘‘You can just hear that these guys are really passionate about what they’re doing,’’ she said. One project saw children from Presbyterian Support’s buddy programme spend afternoons in the hub, engaging in arts and crafts, games and afternoon tea with some of the students. Another incentive, ‘‘Starsuits’’, involved making cheerful hospital gowns for the children’s ward at Dunedin Hospital. Humans Services student Kushla Burnett was part of that project. ‘‘We saw that the children’s ward in the hospital had quite plain, institutional-looking gowns so we made funkier, brighter-looking gowns,’’ Ms Burnett said. Fundraising projects involved Women’s Refuge, Foster Homes Trust, Dunedin Night Shelter and more. Steph Gilbert was another student involved in the project. ‘‘We were trying to do something with social issues, and homelessness was an issue that we were really interested in,’’ she said. The projects make up part of a level 4 certificate in Human Services, on the way to becoming a qualified support worker. Another student, Paige Gilder, said the project made her excited to go to course each day because she really enjoyed what she was doing. The students also agreed the project opened their eyes to what was happening in the Dunedin community. ‘‘You learn heaps — you learn heaps about yourself as well,’’ Steph Gilbert-Keen said. – The exhibition in The Hub concludes today.