In 2008, when Maata Harris joined others from Kaingapipiwai Hapu and helped create marae-based programmes that would enhance the future prospects of its young people, there was great hope about the success it would bring.
Situated in the small Northland settlement of Kaeo – population about 4000 - the area had high unemployment and offered few opportunities. The formation of the Kaingapipiwai Education, Health and Wellness Centre was specifically designed to engage youth in activities that would help them learn about their cultural heritage, retain their language and enhance their social and educational skills and knowledge.
But things didn’t go according to plan. Not that there was one.
“By 2010, it wasn’t going very well,” admits Maata. In an attempt to turn things round, she took it upon herself to find out where the trust had gone wrong.
A trained teacher, she decided to enrol in the SIT2LRN Postgraduate Diploma in Business Enterprise, which she completed last year. And in doing so – through her research project - was able to understand where the mistakes had been made.
“We found out we didn’t do things properly. For a start, we didn’t have a big enough base of young people to draw on. So when they got older and lost interest, we didn’t have more coming through.
“Basically, the research I did should have been done before we started.”
They dropped the programmes that weren’t working and expanded their focus beyond immediate family living in the area, to those who had shifted to Auckland. Now they offer a blend of self-directed and marae-based learning across a range of topics and skills including: Te Reo, weaving, waiata, Whakapapa, Maori medicine, bush knowledge and sea knowledge.
“We’re also looking at establishing an eel farm.”
As part of her studies, Maata also created an education plan and the trust is now looking at ways of getting broadband on the marae, computers in homes and increasing online learning opportunities for their young people aged between 11 and 18 years-old.
“It’s really good putting it all into practice. SIT2LRN was so flexible, the facilitators were helpful and understanding and it’s given me the opportunity to get a better understanding.
“It’s never too late to learn.”