He moana pukepuke e ekengia e te ringa rehe. Jasmyn Pihema, owner and operator of Honeybeez Preschool and Nursery in Kaiapoi, has embraced the idea that even the roughest seas can be navigated with experience at the helm.  

Twelve years ago, Jasmyn and her whānau opened up Honeybeez to provide high quality and affordable childcare that supported tamariki to walk in both te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā. In 2018, Jasmyn and her husband took over the business. “As a whānau we have been committed to realising this dream, and as a result have created an environment that our Māori whānau in North Canterbury feel confident and secure in,” says Jasmyn. The preschool is a now a space where all the whānau involved feel equal and feel safe.  

With the support of Wave funding from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, Jasmyn has introduced a kaiwhakatere role at the preschool to work with the whānau to overcome barriers and steer them towards a better future.  

“A lot of the kōrero happens between the kaiako and whānau, it is real life stuff; good stuff, but also bad stuff about the struggles and what they were having to face,” Jasmyn says as she explains the motivation for this new role. “The whānau of our tamariki were leaning on us as an extension of their own whānau for support. It felt like such a missed opportunity to hand them cards to other local services, because we knew what they were opening up about was not easy to do.” 

Jasymn knew she had to find a way to provide better support for the whānau of the preschool, and saw the kaiwhakatere position as the solution. The role is similar to a Whānau Ora Navigator, and instead of being based within a health provider it is based at the preschool, tapping into existing relationships with whānau who need support.  


“We needed to provide a service that used the strength of our relationships to tautoko whānau through whatever they need,” says Jasmyn. “It was important for us to remove barriers and provide equity for our whānau. The kaiwhakatere really is a role that walks alongside whānau no matter the capacity needed.”  

"It was important for us to remove barriers and provide equity for our whānau."

For the past year the role has been held by Marlena Bunnage, during which time she has supported multiple whānau in different ways, whether that be helping them to upskill, access support to meet needs created by poverty, or walking alongside them through times of trauma.  

“What we already know is that a child doesn’t learn in isolation. If the whānau is not okay than how are our tamariki meant to thrive?” Marlena says simply.  

 Marlena realised that as well as working with whānau in crisis, it was important for her to find ways to engage whānau in positive Māori spaces.  

“Te ao Māori guides who I am as a person, so I started introducing wānanga that were immersed in Te ao Māori into this mahi.” She set up wānanga and haerenga for whānau to come together and learn about taonga pūoro, mahi toi, and rongoā.  

“So, where whānau would hear our narratives, make their own taonga, and have opportunities to connect as whānau in the community but be immersed in te ao Māori.” 

Marlena has been available to anyone who requires her services, with a focus on whānau Māori who live in Waimakariri region.  

She started a wānanga where kaumātua and teen parents from the area came together to learn about ātua wāhine. In addition to learning about the ātua, Marlena taught whānau how to do needle felting so they could create mahi toi of these ātua.  

 Jasmyn hopes to secure more funding so she can make her role permanent. She would like to bring on a tāne kaiwhakatere so the preschool can extend its support even further. 

“Marlena has been amazing as our kaiwhakatere in terms of the support she has been able to offer to the whānau,” Jasmyn says. “The number of lives that have been changed because of it – there are tamariki whose life path has been altered because of her and the role.”