June 2015: "I’d been away from home for years and was living on a 9-acre farm growing my own kai but was still struggling because of the high cost of rent," explains Kelly, a horticulture student. "It had always been a dream of mine to reconnect with our whenua, so with the encouragement of an aunty we decided to make the commitment to move home”.
When Kelly and her family arrived to the whānau land they were confronted with the stark reality of what that actually meant. The homestead was old and worn, there was no power and the grass stood over a metre high.
"In our old house we had everything, a fridge, stove, microwave, TV, but at the homestead we had to really go back to basics. With the help of our family, we got stuck in. We cleared the outside and began cleaning up the rooms in the main house, which came in handy because we also began looking after my mum and dad, we ended up having to bring in three caravans to house everyone.”
While many would just see obstacles and barriers, Kelly and her whānau instead saw opportunity and potential.
But the fact was that while the whānau could look after their basic needs; they were growing their own kai and their bills were minimal, but they didn't have the extra funds needed to begin key repairs on the house.
The family was put in touch with Maketu Health and Social Services, their local Whānau Ora provider and worked with their paeārahi who helped them create a whānau plan and apply for support through Whānau Direct. Working out how to best accomplish their goals was critical so the whānau held a hui to work things out.
"Since we had no power, our first thought was to get a generator, but after more kōrero we quickly realised that a generator would not keep our whare warm if there were no doors and holes in the floors, ceilings and walls. What we needed were tools that would allow us to rebuild our whare.”
Te Arawa Whānau Ora is unique in that it puts control back into the hands of whānau. It provides families with support that allows them to manage their circumstances and make positive change using their own skills and abilities. The resources provided through Whānau Direct meant the whānau could move ahead with their plan.
"As kiwifruit season approached we all decided we'd all work to contribute to my dad’s income so he could stay home to do the repairs on the homestead before winter arrived. For Dad - it’s not about him, it’s somewhere for his mokopuna to return to for holidays or work and to give them that place of belonging.”
Over the next five months the whānau worked hard to get their whare ready for winter.
"The support we got from Maketu Health & Social Services along with our Te Arawa Whānau Ora paeārahi was amazing. They helped get us free underlay, second hand carpet and curtains. They also put us in touch with free roof and underfloor insulation through the Healthy Whare Project, amazing!”
Kelly's tamariki have since moved out of the caravan and the whānau is living in their whare. The rooms have been freshly painted, the house has been weatherproofed and the newly installed insulation means it will be warm and dry for years to come. Kelly's partner has also recently found work at the local kura.
The whenua is showing resilience too. The family's 20-year old avocado tree which has never bore fruit is growing avocados for the first time, a sign to the whānau that what they are doing is not just enriching the lives of their whānau, but is strengthening the whenua as well.
"This whole venture has brought all of us together, my parents are closer; they talk and consult each other for opinions on this and that and they laugh together. They love their life and the purpose that’s been given to them. Our sense of belonging has been renewed."
Why Te Arawa Whānau Ora Works
Te Arawa Whānau Ora has been successful because it ensures whānau are able to determine their own goals and are given positive support to achieve them. Te Arawa Whānau Ora will work with groups, whānau and individuals to support them to become successful. Te Arawa Whānau Ora works because it put them in the driver's seat, they defined their own goals and made their own decisions.
Te Arawa Whānau Ora has helped over 1500 individual whānau members over the last year. If you would like to know more please contact us.