A former Foodbank in Auckland has been renovated to now feed children's minds. Te Whanau o Waipereira Trust have established the free playgroup Puna Kāinga to prepare 4-year-olds for school who would otherwise miss out on access to early childhood opportunities.
Free food, free education and a free space for whānau.
"It was to make it more accessible for anyone and everyone to come here where the focus is for our four-year-olds to help them get ready for school," Puna Kāinga Teacher Rachael Heimann says.
Mother Shontelle Tahitahi says her children enjoy attending Puna Kāinga.
"My children love it here they just come in and feel welcome. My son he paints every morning that's his ritual my other son just runs around and does whatever he likes."
The Puna Kāinga is a certified playgroup open to whānau whose children are not enrolled at other early childhood or kōhanga centres.
"What’s special about this place too is that our numbers are nice and small so it has that whānau feel, it feels like a family and it feels like a home, we all pull in together," says Heimann.
"So whānau who would like to stay along and learn and play with their children as well and be part of the education process then this will be a great place for them."
The Puna Kāinga can cater for up to 15 children and is open to three-year-olds, four-year-olds and their siblings free of charge.
"I tried to enroll them in a lot of places around West Auckland but it was very hard," Shontelle says.
"We were either on long waiting lists or it cost too much and I couldn't afford it because I'm a solo mum."
Parents decide what they want their children to learn and Puna Kāinga incorporates that into the curriculum.
"I'm not going to set everything for whānau if it's not what they would like and so together we make those decisions," says Heimann.
Shontelle says "Soon we're going to teach them how to plant their own fruit and veges and stuff like that and it's really helpful for the kids."
It is early days at Te Puna Kāinga and whānau here are excited what the future will bring for their children.