Charles Ching aims to one day create a safer, more disaster resistant and resilient Pacific, and his Toloa Tertiary Scholarship is helping him to achieve this dream.
At the Christchurch regional Toloa Awards, the University of Canterbury Science student was presented with a Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) funded Toloa Tertiary Scholarship, which support Pacific students to pursue studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.
A Toloa Tertiary Scholarship will not only reduce financial pressure placed on Charles and his family while he is studying but also allow him to focus on his studies and competitive volleyball, Charles says.
Born and raised in Nelson, Charles is of Rarotongan and New Zealand descent, and he and his older brother grew up proud of his Pacific heritage.
“When I was younger, my mother taught me and my classmates various aspects of Cook Island culture such as dancing, drumming and basic language skills which was great,” he adds.
After attending Waimea College in Nelson, Charles followed in the footsteps of his brother Roy and started a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Geology at the University of Canterbury.
“I have always had an interest in Science as I love learning about how natural processes occur, such as chemical or biological processes,” Charles says.
“However, I have always been most curious about how and why the earth’s landscape appears the way it does, and the processes that shape it.”
His curiosity about nature led him to having a passion of Geography and Geology, and he found Geology more interesting at university.
Charles is on track to complete his degree later this year, and he then wants to start a post-graduate Professional Masters in Disaster, Risk and Resilience.
“With my qualifications I hope to be able to mitigate hazards in areas with Pacific people and infrastructure and to help the wider community to live in a safer place less prone to geological hazards.
“These areas would be safer for Pacific people to live in, therefore reducing the economic loss, injuries and potential deaths in the event of a natural disaster.”
Charles believes STEM subjects are the future, and says our world is becoming increasingly mechanised and is transitioning from physical to technological jobs.
“Scientists are helping society cure diseases and protecting ourselves from natural hazards, while engineers are helping us build safer and better infrastructure and physicists are inventing rocket technology to explore other planets for colonisation.”
A disproportionately small percentage of Pacific people are in STEM-based jobs; more Pacific people in these roles would increase diversity and allow problems to be looked at from a different perspective, resulting in them being solved quicker and more effectively, Charles says.
“Pacific people have both the intelligence and resilience to make an impact as much as anyone in STEM-related careers,” he adds.