The Hotondo Homes Annual Conference is always a fun and exciting time for all those a part of our network. In previous years we’ve visited beautiful places around Australia including Melbourne, Alice Springs and the Gold Coast however this year was a little extra special and took place overseas in beautiful Fiji.
While the Conference lived up to its reputation of exciting presentations and revelations, it was our activity day that truly stood out for every member in our network including franchise owners and their families, support office staff and suppliers.
The activity remained a secret right until we pulled up in front of our destination; Nawaicoba Public School then the mission was clear, we were there to help! From the moment we stepped off the bus we were surrounded by the beautiful, smiling faces of the students who greeted us with singing and clapping.
The youngest members of our group were shocked to discover that not all schools were like theirs, they didn’t have the facilities nor luxuries we were accustomed to in Australia. 10 year old Malakai Busch from Kempsey in New South Wales was amazed and touched by the experience.
“We take so much for granted. At play time at school we have soccer nets and balls, skipping ropes, hoops, footballs, a canteen, a library, we have hats and lots more but it takes this poor school 6 months to save for just one rugby ball.”
As we walked up to the cream, pink and green buildings our mission was finally clear, this school was in dire need of a paint job and that’s exactly why we were there. As we realised what was ahead the team were ready to roll up their sleeves and give the school the paint job it deserved.
“There were no questions from anyone – adults and children alike – we all just picked up the tools and had the job done in 3 hours.” – Trish Meares, Hotondo Homes in Goulburn, NSW
The group was divided into five teams who were all determined to do the best job possible. The dedication and hard work from every member of our team was incredible and it created a bond like no other conference had before.
“It built a unifying experience that was shared with all Hotondo builders and suppliers and it created a bond connecting the builders together more than ever. It really was a great experience.” – Ann Maree Harley – Hotondo Homes in Ulladulla, NSW
The builders and their families took as much pride in their painting as they do in building their homes. The visit to the school even touched our youngest members and provided a valuable lesson about how lucky we are in Australia.
“Our daughter Lori, who is in year seven missed four days of school but I’m sure that she learnt more in that one day than what she would have learnt if she was back at school. She loved it!” – Debbie Webb – Hotondo Homes in Tumut, NSW
While we weren’t the first group to participate in an activity like this, we were praised by the school’s staff and activity organisers.
“They were the most dedicated and hardworking team I have ever seen. They didn’t give into any distractions and were quick to finish the job with a smile on their faces,” Sunil Kumar, Rosie Holidays Operations Manager, Fiji.
Once we had finished the job, the group had the opportunity to spend some time with the students, some played around with a ball while others simply sat down and had a chat. It gave us all the chance to really understand daily Fijian life rather than just seeing the beautiful holiday hot spots.
“Our 6 year old daughter Amity saw a young boy a little older than her in a thick, old, dirty footy jumper and decided to give him one of her Hotondo Homes work shirts. The boy was so excited; he stripped off his jumper and put his new shirt on.” – Amanda Busch, Hotondo Homes in Kempsey
Our senior management team were also moved by the experience. Directors, Michael and Chris and CEO Caroline were more than determined to jump on the tools and prove they could ‘finish’ a paint job just as well as any of the builders.
“It’s easy to give money to a charity but I believe it’s more important to put in your time and effort. It makes you really appreciate and be grateful for the life we lead.” – Caroline Kennedy, CEO of Hotondo Homes.
Our annual conferences began in 1995 and have all been special in their own way; however the overall appreciation and emotion attached to this single day was second to none.
“We were overwhelmed by the commitment of the group, we have never had a reaction at a conference before, it really brought everyone together and it’s something I’ll never forget.” Michael Renwick, Managing Director of Hotondo Homes
The students of Nawaicoba Public School were extremely excited, welcoming and appreciative of our visit that day. They performed the traditional Kava ceremony dedicated to Directors, Michael and Chris. The students performed traditional Fijian songs before pulling members from the group up to dance and celebrate with them.
“It really knocked us back down to reality when we realised something as simple as a few hours of painting could mean so much to these children. Being able to laugh and dance with the students once we finished was a wonderful moment that I will never forget.” – Madeline Martin, Hotondo Homes Support Office team member
It was then time for us to leave; we were farewelled with what felt like a guard of honour giving a hi-5 to every student from the school, some would even run to the end of the line just to get another one. As the buses began to pull away the kids ran to the school fences to say their final goodbye and thank you.
“It was a win/win situation for everyone. The students now have a newly painted school and as for the team, we got to experience something money couldn’t buy.” – Chris Cody, Hotondo Homes Support Office team member
The remainder of our conference was filled with conversations about the day and how touching and memorable the experience had been. The level of support from all members of the Hotondo Homes family has urged us to continue supporting the school from Australia. The feedback we received was overwhelming and reminds us just how special each member of our Hotondo family really is.
“Painting the school was one of the most rewarding things I had ever done. Just to see the reaction of the students and teachers when we arrived to begin works is something I will never forget.” – Michael Nikolovski – Hotondo Homes in Lara, VIC
We’d like to thank all those who joined us in Fiji and commend them for their dedication, efforts and passion during our activity day at Nawaicoba Public School.