Less than a month after the senior playground at Apanui School was destroyed by an act of arson in November 2019, Principal Simon Akroyd is thrilled to see the community spirit that has been shown in support of Operation Phoenix – a project to rebuild a new playground for the kids in 30 days, before the school year ends.

Mr Akroyd says that while the project has added a load to an already-busy schedule as the school year draws to a close, it’s been an incredible opportunity for the School and the community to rally together.

“We’re aware there is a huge array of good causes that people can contribute to everyday,” he says. “But people seem to know that ‘kids need to be kids’ and deserve to have opportunities to grow through play, so they’re getting behind this project.”

Mr Akroyd says a number of local businesses have come forward and offered support to Operation Phoenix. “We’ve received donations of building supplies, food for the helpers, and advertising and promotion support,” he says. “We’re hugely grateful to the local businesses that have helped out and we’re looking forward to acknowledging their contribution when the work is done.”

Apanui School students have also played a part in the project through sharing their drawings and ideas for the design of the replacement playground, and even assisting with the measurements of the new playground through Mr Akroyd’s maths group. “This project just keeps showing us that there are always opportunities through challenges, and the importance of resilience.”

Operation Phoenix kicks into action this Friday morning (6 December) with a volunteer army of professional builders and enthusiastic labourers helping to lay the foundations for the playground, with work continuing on Saturday, 7 December with the goal of completing it that day.

Mr Akroyd says informal whānau-based activities will be running alongside the work effort on Saturday, and all are welcome to visit, chip in and just show their support.

“It’s a ‘mucking in’ project that will give a lot of a people a sense of contribution that they don’t often get, especially at this time of year when things can get hectic” he says. “It’s a pretty cool Christmas present to be giving our tamariki, and the wider community members who use the school grounds.”

Mr Akroyd again acknowledges the support received to date. “We’ve had people send cheques from afar, and offer to help out in whatever way they can. We’re so incredibly grateful for everyone’s support.”