Heylie Palahame has come a long way in her own personal journey – it’s what inspired her to establish Harakeke Village in Blenheim in 2020 and today she is proud that her kaupapa Māori initiative is helping whānau “dig out the gold within themselves.” 

“I was struggling with mental health issues as a young mother but I made the decision to pull myself out of that dark place and to improve my hauora. I put myself out into the community and I started working on my identity as a wahine Māori. I did a lot of work on myself and through that, I wanted to create a space to help others,” Heylie says. 

“I have a relatable experience and I know that the freedom that comes from working on yourself can be transformational. That’s what I wanted for others.” 

Heylie (Te Āti Awa, Rangitane, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ngāti Porou), says she established Harakeke Village with the aim of enriching the lives of whānau Māori by building identity and strengthening hauora through aroha, manaakitanga, kotahitanga and whanaungatanga. In the past nine months alone, the kaupapa has facilitated over twenty night classes and wānanga, plus classes in beginners raranga, Māori visual arts, Māori performing arts, barista skills and kai Māori, with 40-60 whānau attending. 

“It’s all about encouraging whānau to live healthy lifestyles and to tackle that in a holistic way, looking at everything from physical health to mental, emotional, social and spiritual health. It’s so important to nurture all aspects of our hauora, as well as encouraging a connection to te ao Māori.” 

In the Tinana Ora section of Harakeke’s kaupapa, whānau can take part in physical activities like aqua-jogging, boxing, poi-fit, walking and netball.  

“This space is mainly for plus-size wāhine. We’re all on a journey to improve our health and we encourage each other to exercise and eat healthily,” Heylie says. 

“The Hine Mārie Wānanga also has a wahine focus, meeting every three months to allow wāhine to kōrero about hauora, to reflect on our whare tapa whā and to share stories and experiences that will help empower them to work towards their future goals.” 

The Manaaki Whānau programme began in September (2022) and aims to provide support for individuals and whānau through pastoral care and practical support like counselling, mentoring, financial assistance or food parcels. 

“We want to break down the barriers that affect their ability to focus on their hauora. We want to help whānau overcome obstacles that might be standing in the way of them reaching their goals and finding peace and happiness.  

“That starts with building relationships and trust, allowing whānau to feel safe in voicing the things they hold deep inside that may be holding the back from reaching their full potential.” 

Heylie says Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu’s Tai Neke Tai Ora Funding has made a world of difference in the delivery of her kaupapa.  She has been able to book wānanga venues, provide kai for attendees and to hire facilitators to run classes. It’s also meant she has been able to remove some of the barriers for whānau by paying their memberships or pool fees, and providing healthy kai parcels. 

“Everything costs these days, so Te Pūtahitanga funding has been awesome. A lot of our whānau struggle with their hauora and the work both Te Pūtahitanga and Harakeke Village are doing is uplifting our people and helping to bring them to a place of self-determination and self-sufficiency. It’s helping whānau to ‘row their own waka’ and that’s very awesome to see and to be a part of.”