Good Practices

Te Waiaraki Purea Trust

Written by Rafael Ortiz

Te Waiaraki Purea Trust (TWPT) began 34 years ago in Rotorua, with the idea that everyone has the right to participate in sports and recreation, regardless of financial barriers.

It has since grown into a team of 35, with a wide-net of services including one-on-one mentoring, whanau wellness services, hosting waka ama championships, helping rangatahi transition out of state care into adulthood and an entire team of people trying to make change through the outdoor space.

The environment and the outdoors is the vehicle that TWPT uses to engage and inspire rangatahi. It is a tool to start a conversation with young people, to better understand who they are and to aid in building deeper connections.

TWPT outdoor instructor, Nick Chater, says outdoor activity allows rangatahi to see themselves in a different light and helps them overcome pre-existing fears, and anxiety empowering them to showcase their own resilience.

“We are teaching them about meditation and how to be calm. When you’re not feeling well, the ability to go to the ocean or the lake or in the forest just to recharge yourself. How to get better in a place that doesn’t cost you anything to go and enjoy yourself.”

TWPT has a very strong Te Arawa, Te Ao Māori kaupapa. Around 90% of the people TWPT works with are Māori, with a majority being Te Arawa. The kaupapa Māori platform allows rangatahi to connect to their whakapapa, to understand who they are and where they come from.

Nick says that having a sense of connection and identity helps to build pride and knowledge amongst young people who don’t feel like they belong.

“To be able to sit with uncle and find out who your family is and where you come from and sit in the waka and talk about the maunga and the things around us and how you’re connected to them. It’s that turangawaewae, that you have your feet on the ground, a place that can be yours.”

The team at TWPT integrates the outdoors, work experience and classroom learning. They use practical team-building exercises like paddling down the river as a group, along with kaitiakitanga projects for environmental wetland progress and educational overnight stays at marae. The service extends beyond just employability into a holistic wrap-around Te Ao Māori context.

To build mana motuhake, TWPT uses a strengths-based approach with a positive messaging strategy. The focus is not on what is wrong in the lives of the rangatahi but on what can be done to improve their situations and outlooks.

“A lot of kids think they’re dumb and school sucks so we try and change that narrative so they’re starting to think, actually I can learn I just learn in a different way. When I do it this way, I really enjoy it.”

Ultimately the goal for TWPT is to help local rangatahi to achieve better outcomes, whatever those outcomes might be for them. Helping young people understand there are people around them that care for and support them.