Whare Manaaki o Te Tai Poutini is a kaupapa Māori organisation operating out of Māwhera on the West Coast.
It was created by Eli Maiava after she moved to the area to connect with her whakapapa, only to discover that there were limited ways to do this.
“We moved here because I wanted to connect to my Māori side – this is our tūrangawaewae,” says Eli. “But other than the marae there was nothing for my kids to connect with. Whare Manaaki came about because we needed a space to connect with other whānau Māori, so we created it.”
With a background in early childhood education, Eli first thought was to create a kaupapa Māori parenting programme for whānau in the Māwhera community. She made a successful application to Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu under Wave 11 – and then COVID-19 hit.
“With the support of Te Pūtahitanga, we adapted our parenting programme to respond to the needs we were observing and Whare Manaaki was the solution – a safe, warm and dry place to bring your tamariki, to access kai, and where we can tautoko with other wellbeing needs like housing or accessing mental and general health services,” says Eli. “We are still a parenting programme, it’s just that we’re trying to meet our whānau where they’re at, and what they’re really clearly telling us is that it’s difficult to engage in parenting strategies when their basic needs are not being met.”
Whare Manaaki has become a hub where whānau of all backgrounds can seek support raising their tamariki with a sense of ownership and validation of their own identity. “It’s a place for everybody – Māori and non-Māori,” says Eli. “We do emphasise that we’re kaupapa Māori to make it explicitly obvious that kaupapa Māori, tikanga Māori, te ao Māori and whānau Māori are welcome in this space too.”
For manager Trish Anderson, working at Whare Manaaki has been an opportunity for her to overcome her own difficulties. “I spent the first 30 years of my life in and out of crisis and moved to Greymouth five years ago for a fresh start,” she says. “It’s such a tight knit community that I found it really hard to fit in, so Whare Manaaki has been amazing and healing for me too.”
For Eli and Trish, the foundations of Whare Manaaki are built upon being a judgement-free, trust-based support system for whānau who are struggling. “We have a lot of people who do come through in immediate crisis,” Trish says. “They feel safer coming to us because we’re not a service, we’re just a bunch of people that are going to help them.”
With whakawhanaungatanga as a corner stone of Whare Manaaki, whānau tend to stay engaged even after their initial needs have been met. This is when Eli, Trish and their team can start working with whānau to plan for the future. “A lot of our kaupapa is relationship based so once they feel safe in this space they come back,” says Eli. “They start to divulge what’s going on in their life and what the stressors are and that enables us to help them.”
In this, the Whare Manaaki approach is unique as it blends a tailored response to immediate needs with guidance towards future aspirations. As the team have connected with more whānau, they have seen a significant increase in the demand for te reo Māori classes, kapa haka and waiata sessions, and support around whakapapa.
“The only classes available in our community have a cost, which is a real barrier for a lot of our whānau,” says Eli. “Providing these sessions – or anything really, like gardening or crafting activities – means that whānau are getting what they need from the space and through that we can help them on their journey as parents and whānau.”
“Whare Manaaki is an inclusive space where no one is judged and everyone is welcome – so long as they’re respectful of others and themselves, that’s our only tikanga.”