Kaden Solly at Excellence Awards

Kaden’s Story

Before Project K I was just starting at One Tree Hill and it was pretty challenging. I wasn’t really involved in class or school activities. Disinterested with most things and a bit overwhelmed I started to struggle with schoolwork and deadlines. I would instantly quit tasks in class and homework assignments, which caused problems. Most of my friends had gone to different schools and I didn’t know anyone. It was a bit of a culture shock for me. I followed a monotonous routine every day. I woke up, I went to school, I came home, I occasionally did my chores. Mostly I just played video games in my room. Even the games I played didn’t even vary. I was stuck in a loop. There was nothing new or interesting in my days. It was safe to say I wasn’t very happy, but I didn’t know what to do about that. My mum was concerned and was talking to my teachers about me. I ended up in sessions with my school counsellor. Some time during that first year, I was invited to join Project K.

Project K has introduced me to so many amazing experiences, like abseiling, tramping, biking, and hiking through the wilderness. This led me to discover that I actually love the outdoors. As a result, I have since joined another program called YSAR, which is Youth Search and Rescue. I am learning more about the bush and how to survive and navigate it. I feel that Project K has given me a sense of direction. After I finish school, I want to join the New Zealand Defence Force where I continue to work in a team and have adventures outdoors. I thank Project K for opening these doors for me.

My Project K experience came with some challenges. For example, one night we had to walk much further than expected late into the night because of complications at a campsite. Everyone was tired and a bit dejected. Another example was the Lockdowns that were in place for a large part of Project K. We couldn’t meet as a group and I couldn’t meet up with Harry. But it turned out ok because of the fun game nights Amiria planned for us over Zoom.

Project K has also helped me become a more confident and self-assured person. My teachers have noticed that I am more sociable and willing to ask questions in class. I have been trying new things in general and I’m learning more while doing it. A good example of this is my baking spree at home. I have made lots of things I didn’t realise I am capable of. It’s been good! My favourite was my apple pie. I think that through my Project K experience I have developed a ‘give-it-a-go’ attitude. For example, one of my classmates on the wilderness adventure introduced me to chess. I started to play it regularly and slowly improved. It was fun. A while later I found out about a chess tournament, and I decided to enter. This is something I never would have even considered doing before Project K. I actually ended up winning that tournament. I was pretty surprised and also proud of myself. This experience gave me confidence. I never could have imagined I could win a tournament like that before Project K.

Harry and I both enjoyed doing frequent walks up One Tree Hill and playing handball while chatting. Occasionally, we paid for activities like hanging out at Dice & Fork and rock climbing but mostly we did cool free stuff. One night Harry even came out to dinner with me and my family. We exchanged texts regularly, and he was always interested in what I was doing.

Winning the Project K Excellence Award gives me a great sense of accomplishment in my Project K efforts and experiences. Thank you very much to everyone at the Graeme Dingle Foundation, Amiria and my mentor Harry for this wonderful experience and opportunity. I’ll never forget it or the people who have helped me.

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Kaden's Excellence Awards Speech