How Pacific Challenge team became friends and winners (V4-S3-16)


Winners of the UC 21 Day Pacific Challenge Team Edu Kai – L-R: Charlotte Mee, Charles Tarimahuri Tevi, Kent Stewart, Sima Bagheri and Helena Power.

They started as strangers five weeks ago at the start of the University of Canterbury 21 Day Pacific Challenge.But now Kent Stewart, Charlotte Mee, Helena Power, Sima Bagheri and Charles Tevi of Team Edu Kai have won the UC 21 Day Pacific Challenge and will travel to Niue Island later this month to put their business plan into place. Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) NZ is a co-sponsor of the initiative. Through all the late hours spent researching and working together the group have grown not only into a tight team unit but they have all become friends.

The challenge started on May 5 initially with 25 students split into five teams. The teams were asked to problem solve an issue for the Niuean community and how they might help Niue to conserve, protect and sustainably manage its food supply with a view to becoming self-sufficient using a $10,000 budget.

None of Team Edu Kai had met one another before but some knew some of the members of other groups quite well. The team of three women and two men have a mix of Commerce, Arts and Engineering and Science backgrounds. With their diverse range of studies, they all came to the challenge for different reasons.

Kent is a PhD student in Bio-Engineering and researching health care. He wanted to use the skills learnt in his undergraduate engineering degree to help people in need of them.

Helena is in her first year in MCom in Marketing with a BA in Art History, Anthropology and a BCom in Marketing. Combined with Charlotte, a third year Bachelor of Commerce in Commerce and Finance and the Promotions Manager on Entre’ (an Entrepreneurial Club on campus) combined their considerable skills to create a compelling presentation.

Sima is in her first Pro Year of Chemical Engineering whilst Charles Tarimahuri Tevi who is ni-Vanuatu is a third year Geology major.

“None of us had met previously” Helena said.  “However we seemed to click immediately and it wasn’t long before we had all given each other nicknames and were even spending time together outside of the 21 day challenge.”

They were all attracted by the innovative challenge, meeting new and like-minded people but also wanting to help people in need.  A couple had heard good things from last year’s participants.  But the added opportunity to travel and challenge themselves was also strong on the cards.  For Charles, being from the Pacific, said he could understand what the Niue people were experiencing.  “As a Pacific Islander coming from a small island nation like Niue and experiencing similar livelihood challenges that the people on Niue are going through prompted me to involve in this challenge as it is a good opportunity to share and also learn from others on how to address these issues and to bring positive changes in the community.”

Stepping out of their comfort zones and meeting people from other disciplines was important.  Mr Stewart said he wanted the experience of being in a competition not associated with engineering, working with people from different disciplines and learning how to develop and create a concept.  For Sima it was an opportunity to expand her thinking and feel, “like I was working practically towards something that had real meaning for real people,” she said.

Helena said it was also a chance to engage with a Pacific community and people in other disciplines “that I would not have otherwise crossed paths with.”

And when it came to the presentation, the whole team fired up on enthusiasm and energy. They had successfully made their first presentation the previous Friday to get into the final. Although the 10 minute time limit added pressure, the team made sure they hammered home their main points.

They all agreed they had nailed the audience attention with the positive feedback and insightful questions from the judges.

Each had played an equal role in the team’s success with each bringing their own strengths to the table and ultimately like any great team they were all on the same track.

Sima praised her team mates: “Kent is very practical and likes to work on the details and the ‘how’ of an idea, Charlotte brings the energy and the excitement and always has multiple projects on the go at once. Hele is very thoughtful and makes things happen without lots of fuss and Charles is the chilled out guys who doesn’t speak too much but has some really good points when he does!”

Despite an estimated 60 hours plus spent on top of their studies, time management was a key part of the challenge the whole team shared in the “craziness” but “we made it through” Charlotte said.

Some of the best things they all learned from the project was the importance of working with others and ensuring their other team member’s voices were heard by just putting yourself and ideas out there. But it was the importance of culture and beliefs and the flexibility to change if they heading along the wrong track were some of the hardest things learnt. Charlotte said, “Culture differences between the countries and how to approach it was a huge barrier but after the first couple of conversations they dropped.”

The whole team enthusiastically recommended the experience of the 21 Day Pacific Challenge to anyone thinking of entering

For more information please email Eleanor Ikinofo at

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