It is so easy to think of moments of wonder because they have happened so regularly. Here’s a couple of memories that quickly come to mind.
I so loved the glorious tribute to creativity; to pride; to the adoration of Taua and Pōua represented in the words woven in the beautiful book, The Ties that Bind Us, produced by Te Whare Tū; Te Whare Ora (Ōraka Aparima).
Then I think about the impact of Arawai, a Dunedin-based initiative, operated by Tama Samuel and Rema Smith, which teaches ruku moana (diving), tikanga, karakia, pepeha, whakapapa and waiata while creating a space where people can heal from past trauma and abuse. Arawai is all about connecting people to place, providing mahinga kaimoana, a safe, healthy and culturally aware space for people to learn about their identity through wānanga for the whole whānau.
If ever I was in need of inspiration, it would be in looking at the transformational approach that whānau across Te Waipounamu took to the elimination of family violence. Throughout 2016-17, a series of community and whānau conversations were held in Christchurch, Arowhenua, Morven, Invercargill, Dunedin, Hokitika, Te Hora Pā, Whakatū Marae, Rehua Marae and Blenheim. Over 750 whānau members attended.
In June 2017, Tū Pono: Te Mana Kaha o te Whānau – A Te Waipounamu Strategy to Effect Change was launched. Subsequently Tū Pono Connectors were appointed in Te Āwhina Marae, Motueka; Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora; Dunedin; Purapura Whetu, Christchurch; Te Hā o Kawatiri, Westport; Tumua Innovation in Invercargill and Tū Pono Te Mana Kaha o Te Tauihu.
Today the General Partner Limited Board announced my resignation.
To say I am heartbroken is an understatement.
The inspiration of whānau across Te Waipounamu has been life-changing; life-energising.
I have felt the wonder of whānau from the maara kai in Rēkohu/Wharekauri to Hīkoi Waewae in Hokitika and the Haast; from the beautiful sanctuary that is the puna of Waikoropupu in the top of the South; to the oyster exfoliation of Bluff and the champions of Koha Kai.
Together we have navigated treacherous flooding and catastrophic quakes; the tragedy of the mosque massacre and the futility of addiction and rage; the despair of economic hardship and the uncertainty that came with COVID.
But we have also withstood the cynics and the critics; those that couldn’t find another way; those that didn’t want to see.
We have supported whānau with kai and supermarket vouchers; with colouring books and the fabulous Pōtiki Poi. We have sung passionately at symposium dinners; we have cried without end at the heroic stories of courage over fear; persistence over defeat.
We have planted trees; we have shared seeds; we have climbed to the summit of Aoraki and paddled the glistening waters of Pūkaki; we have laughed with Rocky on Manaaki Life; we have collected the beanies; the bucket hats; the coloured drink bottles and the tote bags that proudly bear the banner – Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu.
My last day will be the 5th of May. I am determined to focus on all there is to celebrate – and there is so much. But most of all I am absolutely sure to cherish the essence that has driven Whānau Ora – to be the believer; to continue to know that every kale has the potential to grow; and that within every whānau we find the solutions – if only we would dare to look.
My hope over these next two months is that I get an opportunity to say thank you to each and every one of you, for trusting in the lady with the orange hair; for sharing your stories with me; for welcoming our kaimahi into your world. It has been an immense privilege and a honour to walk with you along your journeys of discovery. One of signature t shirts was during the time of the 2018 Review of Whānau Ora when we wanted the world to know that Whānau Ora Works. So we branded it the WOW factor.
The photo below is with Dr Cath Savage of Ihi Research who has painstakingly and persistently travelled the miles and processed the narratives that tell your stories. If there is one thing I am forever blessed by, it is knowing that in the immaculate data and analytical precision of our Hao Ora team; combined with the rich narratives and themes articulated by Ihi Research, that we truly can be proud that Whānau Ora Works; that Whānau Ora rocks; that Whānau Ora thrives. And that – Te Waipounamu – is all due to you.