When Ben Lafale arrived in Nelson two years ago from his native Samoa there were some big changes.
“I miss my family there,” the 13-year-old says. “That’s been hard.”
His parents decided that New Zealand was the place to give Ben and his siblings the best chance in life. Since then, Ben has taken up the opportunity with open arms.
“He just embodies the school values,” says Nelson Intermediate deputy principal Simon Patel. “He is just one of those kids who is always in the right place at the right time.”
Simon says that Ben is a “top quality dude” who is always there to help and defuse situations that arise in the schoolyard.
“The students just respect him. And it’s just Ben being Ben,” he says.
So when it came time to put in an application to the Kelly McGarry Dream Believe Be award, which helps recognise deserving people who embody the spirit of the late mountainbiker, Simon knew who the school should nominate.
Last week after school, the award, which partnered with Village Cycles, Giant Bikes and Dusty Builders, had a surprise for Ben.
The school gathered in the court yard and Steve McIntyre led a countdown while Ben looked away. Then Ben turned back. Standing there was a brand new Giant mountainbike.
“It means everything,” Ben says.
“They surprised me. I looked back, and the bike was just shining. It’s so good.”
He has already taken it on a ride up the Brook Valley mountainbike tracks.
Ben says he is just being himself.
“I always look out for other people. It feels good. Being friendly is a good thing to do.”
Ben says he is looking forward to starting at Nelson College next year.
And the bike will help him even further embody Nelson Intermediate’s school motto:
“Whaia te aratika, follow the right path.”