Note: in the following story names and identifying details have been changed to protect the service user’s identity
In March this year, police were called to break-up a fight between the 19-year-old and his brother.
Shortly after, staff from Te Arawa Whānau Ora visited him at home and referred him onto the programme. Suffering from years of low self-esteem, Arapeta was keen to try something new – and the timing was right to get his life back on track. “My lack of confidence was huge and I feel lucky to have found this programme. I’d stayed home for so many years but finally accepted I had to make a change.”
Attending a wānanga mau taiaha on Mokoia Island as part of the programme was a life-changer for Arapeta. The long-running wānanga teaches its students about their Māori heritage and taiaha skills. It was here, Arapeta held a taiaha for the first time.
“I was acknowledged as the top warrior which was a huge surprise for me and overwhelming. My friends from the programme couldn’t believe it either but they were really happy for me. Receiving a beautiful taiaha as a reward was the best feeling, and I remember thinking, ‘Man, I’m much better than I thought.’
“I’d come from a place of feeling low on everything. I thought I failed at everything; I thought I can’t do anything. When I went to that island, it made things way better. I feel like my confidence is higher, I feel like I can do more, and I’ve learnt how to face problems in life head-on, as well as the courage to never to give up.”