Five years ago a small youth organisation, Whakaoho, started a process that has led to laying down strong foundations for a community education hub in a block of HNZ flats in Petone, Lower Hutt.

Whakaoho had grown out of a programme which was established by Peter Foaese Clinton at Wilford Primary School. The principal had asked Peter to help stem the drift to anti-social behaviour he could see happening to many of his young pupils. Peter could see that if the children were to change the parents had to as well. So with the enthusiastic support of a core group of the mothers they started Whakaoho.

Hine Chase was one of the young mothers who met one evening a week at the community hall at the flats. They prepared food to share while the young people had fun. Their goal was to be good role models. That included a commitment to education and getting a job.

Supported by peers Hine gave up factory work and enrolled in the Nursing Foundation course at Whitireia. She is now a registered nurse and one of the two women facilitating the establishment of the community education hub at the flats.

The other coordinator is Maki Parker, a qualified social worker who belongs to Te Huinga o te Whānau, a people’s project established 25 years ago to support the communities of Petone and Moera.

Whakaoho’s activities showed that there could be an education pathway for the residents.

So, with the help of a professional development (PD) grant from ACE Aotearoa, this is what the two organisations are now working to do.

The goal of the PD grant is to develop the capability of leaders in the Jackson Street flats so they can develop a community hub that will provide resources and programmes that will empower the residents.

The following is the organisation’s slightly shortened formative evaluation report provided on the progress they have made in just 6 months.

Report on progress

We are working to build the capability of our core group – the board of Te Huinga/Whakaoho (we have now formed one board), youth workers, volunteers, staff and our rangatahi leadership team. There are about 20 people who have been taking part in the activities we have provided in 2018.

We began our PD process with a full day community tour and workshop visiting five community education organisations in our wider community. Following the tour, we discussed the spaces we visited and what we would like to see/have/do within our space. Ko wai au: We identified the types of and places of gathering we grew up with and how they impacted on our lives.

A group of seven adults and five rangatahi are participating in indigenous training provided by Te Korowai Aroha. The adults are participating in Mauri Ora wānanga: workforce development based on cultural imperatives proven effective when working with whānau.

Mauri ora is made up of nine three day wānanga. Four of nine noho have been attended so far which consist of:

  • Whānaungatanga – learning to integrate key tenets of whānaungatanga into practice, build whānau identity and strengths,
  • Whakawatea – learning about liberating whānau from the burden of cultural suppression, colonisation and family violence,
  • Whakariterite – learning how to resolve whānau conflicts using Māori frameworks,
  • Te pa harakeke – learning the cultural imperatives that work for whānau whānui.

We still have five noho to complete the Mauri ora programme.

Rangatahi are participating in Mahuri Totara wānanga which focuses on growing tomorrow’s leaders today. It is made up of four one week and two three day wānanga.

These noho are giving our leaders knowledge and skills of self-discovery that are already making them role models in our community. We are working towards delivering some of this training to our community.

Annalise Robertson, the PD and Networks Manager at ACE Aotearoa, has held a workshop for our board members on governance training. We covered regulatory framework essentials, role of the board, culture and ethics, board composition, protocols, meetings and papers, board and management relationships and succession planning. This helped our team to know and understand our roles and responsibilities and for us all to get on the same page and work together as a stronger team in terms of what our role is. The process has also helped us establish our priorities starting with our policies.

Our vision is to positively engage our community to be the creators and empowerers of ourselves, our whānau, our community.

Our Mission: “Noku te rourou, nou te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi”. This refers to co-operation and the combination of resources and skills to get ahead.

We have established a community hub. The name of our whare is Te Huinga O Te Whānau. We have re-ignited a community-owned building that was not being utilised that is now our hub/marae. We converted the old broom cupboard into an office. Rotary and the Salvation Army have given us 10 computers, 7 of which are set up so the flat residents can come and use them. We have Wi-Fi that the community is able to access both inside and outside of the hub with students and adults coming and using the computers. We plan to have a teacher/tutor come and support rangatahi with homework. We are also wanting to offer some computer education.

Te Huinga has always had free food (bread and produce) delivered from local supermarkets (through St Vincent de Paul). We distribute it to all who show up keeping a little so we can cook a lunch for residents one day a week – we call it kai@451. Initially, we were doing the cooking ourselves, now more people are joining in and helping with setting up, cooking and cleaning. We also receive food from Kaibosh for Whakaoho on Thursday evenings and for the community on Friday’s to help them through the weekend. Every day we have new faces at the community hub – and they are people of all different ethnicities. We are breaking down barriers and helping people to come out of isolation by providing a place for people to come along and join in.

We were part of a pilot diabetes support project in collaboration with our local health services and the Pomare community house. The aim is to help people with diabetes improve their health. We have a qualified nurse running a weekly exercise class at our hub and providing nutritional advice. The pilot programme has been going for about two months, with around nine participants. Numbers have been slowly growing. We are planning to extend this into a general wellness programme, empowering each person so they can take control of their health and wellbeing.

Te reo classes have started on Wednesday evenings with about 10–12 participants. During the week we have karakia before kai and before any food distribution that we receive from St Vinnie’s, Kaibosh and Brezelmania.

We have just started working with Whānau Learning Support to train financial mentors to offer financial assistance within the community. The Petone and Pomare community houses are also involved in this programme. Seven of our team are involved in this training. We have plans for someone from our community to complete the literacy training.

Five of our youth leaders are attending Te Korowai Aroha’s Mahuri Totara programme. This indigenous youth development programme has four noho. They have now attended two of these. Our youth group is also planning to have facilitation training.

We have started addressing our parenting programme needs. The two organisers (Maki Parker and Hine Chase) have attended the Mana Ririki parenting course. Hine is already being a great role model with her own toddler and for others she is around. She is also attending Te Ara Tuatahi – Te Reo Māori o Te Kohanga Reo, learning how to teach tamariki babies te reo. Maki is doing noho based paearahi training to become a Mauri Ora kaiako with Te Korowai Aroha.

We have collaborated with the Pomare community on several projects including financial mentor training, mana ririki, mauri ora, toiora, and our community tour.

We are making a dream come true – walking the talk. We believe that change starts from the inside and we are working with the community of our flats to find their passion and make steps towards achieving them. There are over 300 people who are immediate residents of the complex, all of whom struggle in one way or another. Drugs and alcohol are often abused within our community. At the hub, we accept everyone as they are, with no judgement. We will engage with our community wherever they are at and will give guidance towards positive transformation if the opportunity arises.

One of our next challenges is to provide activities that will address the needs of the many people facing mental health and addictions living in the community, particularly as HNZ seem to be placing more single males with mental health issues and fewer families into the flats.

We are very aware that we will soon need to apply for funding to make sure our learning hub is sustainable. We already have some advice on where to apply.

There are no challenges that we do not feel we can deal with.

This article was published in the ACE Aotearoa Spring Newsletter 2018.