I have studied French on and off since Year 6 and really began studying at High School in Year 9. I have not necessarily always loved learning the grammar parts of French, but I have always loved being able to speak the “beautiful” language. When hosting a French student last year and when I host another this year, I enjoy being able to speak and interact with them. I have been to France once and I really enjoyed the culture, food and people there, so I cannot wait to return! Even my parents love France so much that they gave me a French middle name- Séguret ( a small village in Provence).
I was stunned when I received the news that I was going to be a part of the Following Family Footsteps programme and the way I found out was apt. I was standing in the Gallipoli exhibition in Te Papa with my parents, having just been in the National War Memorial Museum, and it was there I read the email to say that I was going to be a Young New Zealand Ambassador. I was ecstatic and jumping for joy (which probably made me look a little crazy to passers-by).
This trip is also important to me personally. I have four family members who fought over in France during the First World War, one in Rouen, two in Longueval and one in Passchendaele. Two of them were killed in action whilst fighting, one was blinded and shell shocked and one was also affected by neurasthenia. I was incredibly lucky to be able to find and listen to, via an audio recording, my Great Great Uncle Andrew Johnston (who was blinded during his fight in France during the First World War). It was incredible to be able to listen to his experience and it really encouraged me to apply to be a New Zealand Ambassador with the Following Family Footsteps programme.
Being a New Zealand Young Ambassador comes with great responsibility, to represent the Youth of New Zealand and to share the knowledge and experiences that are gained from the trip. I plan on sharing this knowledge and my experience within my local community via holding talks at my school, other local schools, retirement villages, the Christchurch RSA, Rotary groups, the Cashmere-Spredyon Community Board and local Newspapers. It is very important that every generation knows of the sacrifices that were made both here and abroad.
I plan to do background research on the First World War, specifically New Zealand’s involvement in France, in order to be able to confidently create a project that is accurate and containing prior knowledge. The Christchurch RSA has generously allowed me access to their resources, so I will investigate any information they have there. I will also try to find out more from the internet and by loaning and reading books on the places we are visiting in France and Belgium. I will also endeavour to follow up my family history connections.
I am very indebted to and grateful for funding grants that I have received from the Christchurch RSA and the Cashmere Rotary. Your financial and resource support is greatly appreciated and I could not be more thankful!
The relationship and connection between France and New Zealand is incredibly special and the bond should be commemorated and celebrated via remembering those who fought during la première Guerre mondiale. I feel honoured that I am able to do this by being one of the NZ Ambassadors travelling to France and Belgium as a part of the Following Family Footsteps programme and I cannot wait to continue with these blog posts and meet everyone up in Wellington on the 17th of March 2018!