June 2014: It was a journey to reconnect, energise and educate their whānau about the legacy of their beloved koroua, Kepa Hamuera Anaha and their cherished kuia, Wikitoria Ngāhirapu.
The gathering took place on Te Arawa's paramount marae Te Papaiouru within the whare tupuna of Tamatekapua. It had been 48 years since the whānau had last come together and 160 whānau members from around the motu and as far away as Australia made the long trip home to celebrate, rejoice, remember, look back and create a whānau vision for moving forward together as one.
The kaupapa of the 4-day wānanga was about piecing together "the rich and vibrant tapestry of historical importance which fell into disrepair over decades of whānau displacement and separation", says Chassie Whareaitu, Trustee on the Whānau Trust.
The need for re-establishing these whakawhanaungatanga bonds was based on the understanding that although most of the whānau knew their own whakapapa, many did not actually know each other personally or had not seen each other for decades.
The whānau was guided by four key values, whānaungatanga, whakakotahitanga, manaakitanga and aroha. Each of these principles helped to direct the course of the wānanga. "During our wānanga, we wanted to help strengthen our whānau bonds so held a quiz night, and ran sports activities and numerous other challenges that involved teamwork and encouraged our family to think as one" explains Huru Maika, Chairman of the Whānau Trust.
Working together to organise the wānanga was an exercise in leadership, direction and governance. "Planning the wānanga meant whānau members could share their skills while learning new ones", said Mr Maika.
During the wānanga itself, whānau members were charged with session facilitation and given tasks that allowed them to take leadership roles. "This was particularly important" explains Mr Maika with conviction, "this allowed and encouraged new whakaaro, created opportunities and in the future will provide a stepping stone for our rangatahi to move into leadership roles".
The final day of the wānanga was celebrated by building on stories told by their koroua and kuia, oral histories were told and even long forgotten speeches of Kepa were shared. All taonga for the whānau to treasure and keep for a lifetime.
"Our whānau are indebted to Te Arawa Whānau Ora for their support, it helped us celebrate the essence of what Whānau Ora is all about, to plan and control our futures, to use the strengths that exist within our whānau to make sound decisions and to work together to become stronger, more connected and more involved with one another's lives. The deep sense of aroha that we felt as a whānau, is almost indescribable" says Mr Maika softly.