Gap Year students tested by new experiences and strange places

On Wednesday afternoon, 8 Marist Challenge 2000 Gap year students who have recently returned from their month-long pastoral placements, reported back to their friend and colleagues gathered  at Pa Maria in Wellington.

This year the ‘Gappies’ went to a variety of placements around New Zealand and overseas. They were sent to the far north of Aotearoa New Zealand to the Hokianga, down to the far south of Dunedin, Hawke’s Bay and to Samoa and Mexico.

The Gap students all left the familiar and ventured into the unknown. All of them experienced different cultures and languages, and different ways of living. The placements included assisting at primary and secondary schools, disability services, rest homes, religious communities, and other community agencies. These placements presented opportunities for developing new skills and learning new things, meeting new people, experiencing different charisms which exist in our faith communities, utilising their own talents and finding out more about themselves.

During the students’ presentations about their pastoral placements each of them reflected on the impact that their placements have had on each of their lives, and how it helped them to develop mentally, emotionally, spiritually and holistically. They spoke of the difficulties of being somewhere new and foreign, the insights they gained, the enjoyment of new challenges, and most importantly the people they met. It was very moving for those who listened to hear of the significant and profound impact these experiences had on the Gap students and their futures.

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The following is a reflection written by Jacob Bang who went to Mexico for his pastoral placement:

“I saw towering church spires, colours that terrify the darkness, a woman with skyward eyes on the brink of tears, a man rolled up in a blanket, eyes closed as we took photos of the reality we knew and loved.

Loved to touch; our fingertips rejoiced as they pressed against cool polished marble altars, loved to taste; our tongues relished what many believe to be the essence of culture, loved to hear; our ears drinking in the clamours din of those making a living; sound without words, face without name, muted pain and music to my ears.

I rummaged through my bag, rustling scrunched up balls of paper, tickets and chip packets, clinking coins as I pulled out my camera. Click. Flash.

And reality was captured; a picturesque scene of masterful masonry, bustling crowds of locals, the sun beaming at the memory of Mary overgrown and the new reality of things. Defiantly lying down, submissively, on the concrete pavement an old man, old reality protested in dismay as this blotch of ink ruined the candid image, even great angels paled at the sight of him.

Disillusionment spread like fire. How do I bear witness without sounding cliché, without being the sound of a broken record? It isn’t about stories to share to family and friends back home nor about eyes opened. It’s far simpler than that, far more profound than purpose found.

It is how it’s always been, how it is, is it how it will always be?

A man with a life I’ll never know or could ever comprehend. My words could never do him justice.”

Perhaps you know someone who might want to have an opportunity of a lifetime? Then refer them to the Marist Challenge Gap Year.

Gap Year, is a year long programme that involves holistic formation, NZQA youth work training, work placements, experiences, and local and international travel.

The Gap Year offers the chance to develop the social, spiritual, intellectual, employment, well-being and physical elements that are required for a positive, successful and balanced life.

You can also gain some extras to get you ready including your drivers license, first-aid certificate, and technology trainingApplications are open until the end of November for the 2014 Gap Year.

For more information visit Challenge 2000’s website at


  • Supplied by Challenge 2000
  • Image: Challenge 2000


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