Focus on the Land
Citation for brave river rescuer
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Alice Te Puni
WAIKIRIKIRI School student Reuben Waihape-Kaaho is a hero.
His sharp eyes were the first to notice trouble brewing for young Abigail Wanoa, who was swimming at Anzac Park during a school holiday activity programme this month.
Abigail was playing in the Waimata River shallows but drifted into deeper water and began to panic when her feet could not touch the bottom.
Eleven-year-old Reuben saw she was trying to tread water and yelled out to ask his school mate if she was all right.
Through her tears Abigail called back “kao” (no).
Reuben swam out to the nine-year-old but found the water was over his head when he tried to stand.
“I reached out to Abigail and told her to climb on to my back and hold on tight,” said Reuben.
The pair returned to the riverbank safely.
A lifelong friendship will be forged by Reuben’s action.
“I was quite scared and am so glad he came for me. He is a very special mate to me now and my hero,” said Abigail.
Reuben was presented with a bravery award by Mayor Meng Foon at a special school assembly yesterday.
The event was kept “hush-hush” from Reuben.
Once Reuben realised what was going on, he could not believe the fuss being made, said deputy principal Ritihia Harding.
He accepted the award with a humble smile but when his school stood to pay homage with a passionate rendition of the haka Keke Pohatu, he was overwhelmed with emotion.
Mr Foon said Reuben was a “fine example” of a young man.
“We are all proud of Reuben. He told me the award was not his alone . . . that it was for the school and community.”
His father Eric Kaaho and mother Elizabeth Waihape said their son had a “big heart” and that his nature was gentle and caring.
He is our “peace-maker”, said Mr Kaaho. “We are full of pride because of our boy. Reuben is a gentle giant who loves his sports and school. He never has an unkind word to say about anybody.”
Mrs Harding said Reuben’s clear and quick-thinking actions stopped a dangerous situation developing further.
“The tutors of the holiday programme saw this unfold and were on hand, but could see that Reuben was in control of the situation.
“He is an exemplary school leader and an all-round lovely young boy who often displays a great depth of character.”
The bravery award was the first of its kind from Gisborne District Council and a first also for the school, she said.
PROUD OF REUBEN: Mayor Meng Foon presents Reuben Waihape-Kaaho with a bravery award during a special assembly at Waikirikiri School yesterday for rescuing schoolmate Abigail Wanoa (right) from the Waimata River. Picture by Dave Thomas
05:43 p.m. Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012
Good on you Reuben. You deserve to be very proud of who you are.
05:31 p.m. Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012
What a lovely story - thanks. Nice one Reuben, u da man!
And well done to the council via Mayor Meng Foon for recognsing Reuben's efforts.
lee miriam brown
06:53 a.m. Thursday, Nov 01, 2012
Well done Reuben, I bet your Nanny is very, very proud of you. xo
08:18 a.m. Friday, Nov 02, 2012
Good boy Reuben, that you are such a humble, gentle giant. One of Nan's sayings is, if you help one another you'll go a long way. I am so proud for having you as my nephew.
01:23 p.m. Saturday, Nov 03, 2012
This is a lovely story. Reuben, you need to be proud of yourself. Good on you, so good to see.
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