First Hei Whakapiki Mauri hui highlights aspirations

Whānau gather for the first Hei Whakapipi Mauri hui in Halswell recently.

Whānau gather for the first Hei Whakapiki Mauri hui in Halswell recently.

When married couple Gary Williams and Ruth Jones of Kanohi ki te Kanohi Consultancy set up Hei Whakapiki Mauri, they saw it as a way for Māori with disabilities to connect with whānau and to explore and grow their aspirations and knowledge.

Hei Whakapiki Mauri is a series of hui designed to empower disabled Māori and their whānau through knowledge and networks. For Gary and Ruth, both Ngāti Porou and both disabled, it is first and foremost about celebrating being Māori and exploring what that means for each individual.

“We have a good life and for us, this is about ‘paying-it-forward’,” says Ruth.

“We saw a niche  for Hei Whakapiki Mauri and we were delighted to get Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu support and funding for our one-year pilot programme in April this year.

The group held its first Christchurch hui in Halswell on September 25, which brought together disabled Māori, whānau and support people to korero about what was important to them.

“We’re a small group to date but we hope awareness will grow, Ruth says.

“We’ve identified a real enthusiasm for the project and what it might mean for some of our more isolated disabled whānau members. We wanted to raise the mauri of Māori with disabilities and bring them closer together with their culture and whānau. That’s why we chose the name,” says Ruth.

The Hei Whakapiki Mauri tohu emphasises this idea. It was designed to represent togetherness and shows different koru coming together in one kete. The project is also about paying it forward and giving disabled Māori the knowledge and resources to be who they want to be.

“We want our disabled whānau to have great lives, to be strong, and to grow into leaders of others and in their  own lives. Hei Whakapiki Mauri is about resourcing whānau to do this,” says Ruth.

Whakawhanaungatanga was a key part of the Halswell hui. Attendees introduced themselves and then explored what was important to them.

Stewart Rehutai. who is recovering from a stroke, was interested in te reo and tikanga. He is already involved with Rehua Marae and is keen to share his knowledge with others.

Charlene Benita Joe interested in connecting with whanau through waiata

Charlene Benita Joe interested in connecting with whānau through waiata

Charlene Benita Joe was interested in connecting with whānau and learning more waiata. Her son is very important to her and she has a talent for singing, which she hopes to build on.

Future hui  – the next will be held on October 8  at the Aranui Wainoni Community Centre in Christchurch East – will be based on what people like Stewart and Charlene want to explore on their journey with the project.

“Basically it is their project. We’re here to make sure they can get going in the direction they choose and that they can carry on and lead their own change with whānau,” Ruth says.

“Knowing where to go and who to talk to can be daunting for anyone. It can be overwhelming; but through our knowledge and contacts within the disability community, not-for-profit, Māori and government sectors, we aim to provide all our members with their own Hei Whakapiki Mauri Resource kete, which will help them plan what they want to achieve.

“We want to encourage our whānau to learn from each other about what’s available to them and how to navigate the education, disability support and Work and Income systems. When we know who we are, where we belong and when we have aspirations for the future, we have what we need to work, play, live and thrive.”

You can find out more about Hei Whakapiki Mauri at: www.heiwhakapikimauri.co.nz