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Rangatahi go bush

05 April 2022

Sport Hawke’s Bay and Te Aratika Academy have joined forces to provide active recreation opportunities for rangatahi.

A group of Hawke’s Bay rangatahi who went bush have returned with new-found skills and connections with nature.

Sport Hawke’s Bay has been working alongside Te Aratika Academy, a Hastings-based school for year 9-13 males that focuses on engaging and enriching young people in a culturally appropriate learning environment that emphasises Māori culture and values.

The partnership has seen students embark on outdoor adventures to help them learn new skills and grow their connection to te ao Māori through active education.

It’s all part of a push to provide more active recreation opportunities, instead of just traditional sports, that support rangatahi to engage in physical activity in a way that works for them.  

That theory proved correct when Sport Hawke’s Bay’s Caitlin McIvor and Jackson Waerea recently took a group of 15 to 17-year-olds on a hikoi into the Kawaka Ranges where they learned how to build shelters and fires, how to use a map and compass, what is edible in the bush, tasted dehydrated foods and had a go eeling.

The smiles on their faces spoke volumes, says Caitlin and Jackson, who is focused on enhancing the mana of the rangatahi and improving their matauranga/knowledge regarding significant Māori sites.

Comments from rangatahi afterwards included: “I enjoyed being out of the classroom”; “I didn’t know nature was this pretty”; “Now I know why it’s called the silver fern, because it’s grey underneath the fern”.

Another said he could “feel the energy in the wairua in the bush, it’s real good”.

Caitlin speaks of one rangatahi hesitant to engage at first.

“He wasn’t enjoying himself, he didn’t want to do anything and he wanted to be back in civilisation when we went to Kuripapango - he did participate eventually but with minimal effort.

“However, when we went to Swamp Loop he was at the front of the group, asking questions and constantly smiling, it was so nice to see him enjoying himself and embracing the opportunity.”

Jackson, a father of three who was raised in Flaxmere, sees himself in many of these youth, and knows their experiences could influence their decisions in future.

“I have a soft spot for a lot of these boys because I grew up in the same neighbourhoods and I understand the realities of which most of them deal with on a daily basis.”

This rangatahi mahi aligns with his purpose to serve and resonates with his values as a father and community member.

“My whānau are very active on our marae in Bridge Pa and our community have strong whānau values and beliefs.

“Even though our communities were deprived of money, I was always fortunate to have good role models around me who were active in food gathering, diving, basic life skills and serving the community through our mahi on the marae.

“Because of this, I always believe in the benefits that the outdoors provide to us and the lessons we can learn from nature.”

Those lessons to date have proven so valuable that another younger Te Aratika group has also gone on a hikoi, there are talks of an overnight hike and discussions with other kura about similar excursions.

“It’s been awesome to get to know these rangatahi through their active rec activities, not just in my role for gathering insights but being able to help them in connecting to the outdoors, sharing my knowledge and seeing them thrive in an environment that I am passionate about,” says Caitlin.

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