Hoe Horo O Pawarenga, has partnered with Northland DHB to launch a new recovery programme, Waka Oranga with indigenous pathways to healing and hauora for mental health and addiction clients in the North.
Kaitaia Hospital operations manager and community mental health service manager, Neta Smith is right behind the programme as she says it is time to start doing things differently.
"Waka ama certainly has turned lives around. It's the fastest growing sport in New Zealand and covers all age groups from children through to Kaumātua with a very high proportion of Māori uptake. It's not just about the paddling; it's the whole kaupapa that sits alongside it.
"The sense of belonging, culture, identity, physical wellbeing and recovery are only a few of the benefits. It's a vehicle to enable recovery from a different perspective for our Mental Health and Addiction clients, and we will be able to utilise it with our Adult, Child and Youth Services."
Northland DHB has purchased a waka and trailer, of which Ngā Hoe Horo will be Kaitiaki. Their members will offer paddling expertise and support to the Community Mental Health and Addiction staff when using the waka as a therapeutic means of recovery.
Alcohol and drug counsellor, Teina Piripi said the club develop, support, teach and train over 100 tamariki annually to engage in productive, healthy and connective experiences through waka ama. They have a strong history of supporting their community and were instrumental in establishing the Women's Refuge in Kaitaia, Whare Timatatanga Hou Ora, and what we now know as, Waka Ama Aotearoa New Zealand.
"Waka Ama is a naturally occurring grassroots movement. What we're doing is collaborating and partnering with Ngā Hoe Horo in this initiative as an example treaty relationships in action. Northland DHB is privileged to play a small part in what I think is an example of the treaty relationships that we're trying to engage in.
"This is a real movement towards He Korowai Oranga, meeting our obligations under Te Tiriti, that is necessary if we are to realise the overall aim of Pae Ora (Healthy Futures for Māori Manatu Hauora)."
"The skills you learn in the waka ama, are skills for life – problem-solving, health, fitness, nutrition, conflict resolution and whanaungatanga – in terms of roles, responsibilities and obligations to one and another in the waka, on and off the water."
Teina said a common issue for whānau in recovery is their lack of connection, and the programme's kaupapa Māori approach will help support them to re-establish vital links with their people, stories, experiences and homes.
"All lessons will be tied to Te Ao Māori and learning Te Reo Māori me ona Tikanga will be encouraged and normalised in the approach, as it is within waka ama, always to acknowledge Atua with karakia before every instruction."
"Kai Hoe will learn waiata and mihi, so when we go on Marae, they will be skilled to play the roles that they need to participate on Marae and in Te Ao Māori."
"Once they start paddling to a different rhythm in life, recovery can begin. In Te Ao Māori, timing is everything. Each person has their own way, feeling and systems – they might be a little out of sync to start with. However, we will all tune in together – hoe tahi tatou."
Not all programme attendees are expected to take part in the paddling if they are anxious about being on the water. Nevertheless, each one will have a role to contribute, whether it is taking photos, looking after equipment or leading haka.
As Teina says, "Everyone engaged in waka ama has a responsibility to make a real commitment to the team, which is part of that connection because you can't run a waka without everyone playing their part – He Waka Eke Noa."
Teina hopes to give the graduates a hoe (paddle) and contribute towards subscriptions to waka ama clubs so that they can have a healthy new start living in a community where they can make a valued contribution.