Born and raised in Lower Hutt, 27 year-old Tihou Weepu journeyed south five years ago to Arahura – a defining moment that has set him on a path of igniting and developing rangatahi potential.
“When I moved back I felt an instant connection to whānau and whenua and realised I was home for good.”
In 2015 Tihou was the recipient of the Vodafone World of Difference Scholarship, which awarded him $100,000 to put towards the creation of a rangatahi kaupapa now known as Tuia Te Tai Poutini. He is employed by WestREAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) as a Kaitautoko Rangatahi. His role is to co-facilitate leadership wānanga, and develop new and innovative ways to help rangatahi build a connection to people and place.
What constitutes a good day?
I love a good day on the marae or on the whenua, playing with tamariki, hanging with rangatahi, listening to kaumātua, and sharing kai together, with a whole lot of laughs in between.
One thing you could not live without?
I have lived a beautiful life, full of awesome experiences while being surrounded by really loving people. One thing I couldn’t live without is my parents, my sisters and their families.
Who or what inspires you and why?
My friends inspire me. I have seen many of them come across obstacles that have challenged them physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially, and somehow they all find the courage to be vulnerable, grow, and love their way through it.
Highlight in the last year and why?
My mates and I started up a leadership kaupapa for rangatahi Māori from across the coast, now named “Tuia te Tai Poutini” by the rangatahi. Getting to meet such a loving and diverse group through this kaupapa who all want to make positive decisions for themselves, their whānau, and community has definitely been a highlight.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Probably my phone. My current is the Samsung Note 4 which is pretty mean.
Favourite way to chill out?
This would have to be in the taiao, either on a rockface, up a maunga, on a bike track, on a kayak, on the river or just a stroll through the ngahere. My favourite place would have to be up my awa. Every time I’m up there I learn something new about the area and get to see some beautiful sights and wildlife.
Dance or wallflower?
Definitely dance. Whether or not that is a good thing for me socially is another question, but I love to dance, by myself, with a partner or in a mosh pit… Actually mosh pits aren’t really that fun.
What food could you not live without?
Kina. I’ll only have a little bit of it, but that little bit is enough to make my week.
What meal do you cook the most?
Hmmm… So many dishes to choose from… yeah right! My most common would be a nice salad or a side of roast veges with a meat that’s been cooked on a stove top.
Surviving 2013 when I and eight other rangatahi travelled the width and breadth of Aotearoa in a van given to us from St John, called Hone, to explore the social, political, cultural and historical landscapes of our country. To really understand what we have got here so that we can contribute better and more intentionally. All of us quit our jobs, left uni, left whānau, left our lives to sit and listen to rangatahi, kaumātua, whānau, communities, and hapū. It took a lot of faith having no money, no pay, not even the dole and it was hard, but it was mean. My greatest achievement was staying on that van for the full year with eight amazing, strong, on to it, talented, loving rangatahi that helped me grow to be a better tāne.