Discussions were predominantly in French for the first part of the day, while we covered our trip to Wellington in April and what we will be doing with our corresponding French Ambassadors. We then discussed our individual projects before stopping for lunch.
Lunch topics covered the inclusion of Maori culture within New Zealand secondary schools and gender equality in New Zealand. Through these in-depth conversations we all began to get to know each other’s personalities and opinions. It was very important that we were able to have the opportunity to meet each other before we began to represent the rest of the youth of New Zealand and I believe it was integral that we did this to ensure that we could put our best foot forward, together as a team.
After lunch, we were able to locate on large maps, exactly where we were headed to in France and Belgium on our trip in June/July. We also were able to point out where each of our ancestor’s burial sites were, so that we can travel there. To finish the day, we skyped with the communications leader, Pascale Hyboud-Peron, to converse with her about what information we had gathered while spending the day together.
Throughout our day in Wellington I was able to narrow down my thoughts on what I will be focusing my project on. I have decided that I will be focusing on the affect of the men leaving rural communities to fight in World War One in New Zealand, specifically farmers. This was chosen in part due to having two ancestors’ who served in Northern France who were brothers, Albert and Andrew Johnston, who were from a farm in rural Southland. In this way, by studying different family experiences I am able to truly follow, not only my family footsteps, but also what it was like for others left behind in New Zealand.
I will also examine what it was like for the men fighting at Passchendaele and the Somme where Albert Johnson and another relative William Cecil Hill respectively died. Another relative Albert Hart returned to NZ suffering from shellshock after serving in Northern France. He subsequently went to Hanmer Military hospital. All aspects of my project, I believe, reflect the purpose of the trip and journey to France and Belgium – acknowledging the connections between the nations during the war and the subsequent long-lasting effects that we should not forget.
To further my understanding and to benefit my research, on the 9th of April I visited the Christchurch RSA where I was able to talk with several World War Two veterans. This was an incredible honour where I was able to get a real perspective of what affect war had on men who went to war and the women and families who were left at home. I have consequently been invited by some of the individuals to their own personal memorabilia that they each have. I would like to thank those who came and spoke with me. I will be returning to the Christchurch RSA to utilise their in-depth primary sources they have surrounding the First World War. To find out more about my family roots, I will also be aiming to attend a family reunion of the Johnston side of my family, where I will be able to speak with those who know more about the brothers Albert and Andrew Johnston.
The New Zealand and French Ambassadors trip to Wellington is in two weeks’ time and I believe I will not be the only New Zealand ambassador who cannot wait to meet our corresponding French Ambassadors! I believe our countries rich history’s together will make the trip to Wellington very special, especially when we attend the National ANZAC Day Service.
In terms of promoting this trip within my local community and region, I have been in contact with a local newspaper whom is interviewing me this week. I have also begun discussing how and when I will be talking to classes at my school and looking into talks with retirement villages and primary schools. I believe it is very important for us to share this project and raise awareness of the work we are doing as it is a key part of New Zealand’s History and Heritage. To be able to share the stories of those who fought and died for us, for generations to come.
I would once again like to thank the Cashmere Rotary, Christchurch RSA and the Cashmere-Spreydon Community Board for financially aiding me and enabling me to be on this incredible journey. I cannot thank you enough!
Until Wellington, à bientôt