What started with two Mums, a few children, a couple of mats and some other assorted gymnastics gear on loan has since grown into a thriving gymnastics programme for Taranaki tamariki.
With new opportunities to be active, learn new skills and have fun, now, more than 60 children from four rural schools between Omata to Okato flock to Tataraimaka Gymnastics for their sessions up to three times a week.
And thanks to Tū Manawa funding, it’s out with the old gear that a group of parents initially pulled together and in with new gym mats, trampolines, balls, beams and hanging ropes.
Tataraimaka Gymnastics is the mahi of twins Rach and Rose Law and Rebecca Le Prou, who in 2019, had school-age children and didn’t want to drive into the city to take them to classes.
“There are no other gymnastics classes in the Oakura, Omata or Okato area. With a strong focus on bringing together our communities of children in these areas, we have seen so many benefits already,” they say.
“We encourage free play and structured-based sessions and love to see the joy on the kids’ faces when they achieve what seemed impossible.”
Most of all, Rebecca says the classes are giving rural children opportunities to participate and be active.
“We wanted our children and other children in the community to do gymnastics to learn skills such as strength, co-ordination and understand what their bodies can do in motion,” says Rose.
“The adults involved did gym as young people, so we understood how useful it has been for just about any sport we have tried later in life.”
Word has since spread and children aged three to 12 now frequent the hall under guidance from instructors/parents.
It’s also about ensuring the classes are accessible to everyone.
“We work on a volunteer basis with minimum charges and ‘koha' to cover costs of hall hire – we like to run the groups on a casual basis to include as many as possible,” says Rebecca.
“We have no sign-up criteria or charges. Pre-season sign-up and payment can be prohibitive for some groups so our pay as you can ethos allows us to be more inclusive.”
And the benefits have been far-reaching where Rebecca has even seen her own daughter thrive.
“She started at five years old and is now eight and has always been very quiet and reserved but absolutely thrives in these classes – they’ve been great for her confidence.
“It’s amazing to see the children develop. We love volunteering for our community, it is what drives us and to see our own children and those children in the community benefit from these classes both socially, mentally and physically is awesome.”
Sport Taranaki’s Janet Fleming says access to a range of opportunities for physical activities can often be a challenge in rural communities.
“It’s fantastic to see the energy of grassroots groups like Tataraimaka Gymnastics stepping up to provide something to help keep their community active.
“The beauty of it is that they’re building links within the community, and opening doors to something these kids may have never got the chance to try.”