It’s a van-tastic plan for Resthaven

He’s a man with a plan to get Resthaven a van.

July 1 marks the beginning of a two-month-long campaign by Cambridge High School geography teacher Blair Ludlam and his class of Extension 4 students to raise $70,000 to purchase a mobility van for the residents of Cambridge Resthaven retirement village.

The so-called ResthaVAN campaign will run until August 19, peaking on August 5 with a town-wide ‘Thrifty Fifties’ dress-up day.

Back to the drawing board

Paulo Baldo, one of two year 13 students coordinating the class’ fundraising efforts, said he saw the dress-up day as a way of: “bringing Cambridge back in time; a sort of a nostalgic feeling for the residents at Resthaven.”

In March, former Cambridge High School principal Phil McCreery, who sits on the Resthaven Community Trust Board, approached Extension 4 with the idea for the campaign. Extension 4 – which Ludlam has led since 2014 – is a programme for students in their last year of high school, and focuses on life skills, connections and community service.

“[Resthaven is] working on a bunch of other stuff,” explained Ben Eastwood, a year 13 at Cambridge High who has sat on the Resthaven board as part of the campaign planning process.
“So, they thought this would be a great opportunity of us for a class. They’re working on a new wing; they don’t have the time and [need for residents’ mobility] has fallen by the wayside.”

Baldo, who is leading the project with Elena Huggins, said the Extension 4 class soon visited Resthaven.

“We had many chats with the residents to bolster our connection between the high school and the rest home,” he said.

Ludlam said the class was inspired by the unique business model of Resthaven, which, as a non-profit, operates through a community trust.

Extension 4 at the planning stage

In touch with this close-to-Cambridge ethos, the class wanted to build a grassroots campaign all the town could contribute to—rejecting big corporate sponsorships (and naming rights) for donations from local business and families.

“They were offered major sponsors, and they turned it down,” Ludlam said. “But it was under naming rights … I feel like that will pay off in the long run … a kid will donate a dollar, or five dollars from a family and they don’t feel like they’re overrun.”

This decision was a tense one for the class, but those backing the community ethos came through.

“That was the biggest thing,” Ludlam said, “We want every family, every kid, every school who donates to feel like they contributed.”

The campaign has leveraged the Extension 4 programme’s connections with successful alumni across the world—from ex-students and current marketing professionals have filled the students in on what it takes to run a campaign, to former members in Hong Kong playing star rugby.

The students have filmed promotional videos, and plan to post these, as well as endorsements from former pupils and New Zealand celebrities, on the campaign’s social media channels.

So far Jono and Ben, the comedic duo, have signalled their support in a video. So has Sue Collier, who runs the Cambridge Grapevine, and Grace Lewis, a former student speaking from the middle of Times Square, New York.
Ludlam says he could not have imagined a better learning opportunity.

“Within our goals [as Extension 4], community spirit is one of them — we’ve dabbled in this before. [The kids have] done kind and generous things. But this is the most far-reaching thing that I’ve ever seen,” he said.

As an education initiative, this was always the point of Extension 4, he said.

“That was always my dream,” Ludlam said. “That there was far more to learn than just geography … if you did it right, kids would learn things we couldn’t imagine when we started. How cool to have two 17-year-olds sitting on a community board, kids talking GST to the school accountant, going to the Chamber of Commerce.”

Fraser Duncan and Mandi Portegys meeting with residents

Cambridge Resthaven is a community trust, established by the community over 45 years ago.

The Trust has developed and grown with the community, always retaining its community trust status and community ethos.
It is a not-for-profit organisation that is 100 per cent Cambridge owned and every dollar goes back into providing services for Cambridge seniors.

Anyone looking to contribute to the campaign can do so at:

Businesses or organisations keen to join in the Thrifty Fifties dress up can contact the school at

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