Growing up in Malaysia and struggling as a child meant Southern Institute of Technology student Stella Rozario wanted to use her passion to give back to needy families in the community.
Rozario, along with 13 other classmates who are studying the New Zealand certificate in cookery Level 4, baked and decorated gingerbread houses.
Nine students decided to donate their finished houses to charities or organisations in Southland.
It was their first time making a gingerbread house and it was not without its challenges, but Rozario said she felt "fulfilled" to gift her house to charity.
The houses went to SIT Childcare, Ruru Specialist School, Ronald McDonald House, the children's ward at Southland Hospital, Hospice Southland, Women's Refuge, Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust and the Red Cross.
It was challenging to match the pieces together, but having the freedom to decorate how they wanted meant they could let their imagination "run wild", she said.
"There's no restrictions."
Student Vicky Kwon, of South Korea, said it made them happier to gift their creations to people who could benefit from them rather than them going to waste.
"We think when we make it that children love colour and different candy. We tried to make it fun to eat."
Student Tatiana Ilina, of Russia, said the people benefiting from the gift had a little bit of happiness and hopefully forgot about their struggles.
Children especially could play with it and enjoyed the little treats that the houses were decorated in, she said.
Their tutor Marene Tweedie said it was the second year students took part in the project, but last year only two students donated.
Students got the choice to take their house home to enjoy or to donate it.
"It's fantastic to hear how happy they [the recipients] are and the response from them.
"There's a wider variety of charities for people with a general need of smiles on faces."
Students spent two days on the houses, including one day to bake the biscuits and one day to decorate how they wanted.
Themes included Christmas, Halloween, Hansel and Gretel, church and beach-house designs.
Most of the students were international so it meant there was a lot of diversity in the course, Tweedie said.
At the end of November another gingerbread house bake for charity will take place with a bigger class of 35 students, she said.