17 men have been paddling the Waikato River this week as part of the Te Ara Hou programme to help curb their addiction to drugs and alcohol. For some of them, it's been a spiritual journey of self-discovery.
Tears of blessings fall on this team of rowers from their ancestors. This hoe waka journey on the Waikato River is a new experience for Tyrone Peters and Ace Wikaira.
“Being on the waka you know you got to, you got to draw within ourselves in the spiritual sense. You got to release a few things that we were holding. For me it's cleared my mind from some of the things we've come from, the outside, it's been a healing process, a spiritual journey, and it's been awesome”, says Tyrone Peters from Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara.
“Finding out who I really am and who I can be”, says Ace Wikaira from Ngā Puhi.
For Peters it’s about getting the help he needs, “Just reach out, don't be afraid to talk, and stay connected with your whānau!”
These men have been paddling for the last four days, as part of Raukura Hauora's 6 month service to help curb their addiction to drugs and also alcohol.
Peters says, “Before I come here I was going through a bit of a dark patch in my life. I needed some help, so I've come here to Te Ara Hou to get back into my Māoritanga, tikanga, just try and help to rebuild myself.”
Raukura Hauora’s Tainui Regional Manager Brad Totorewa says, “Reciting ancient prayers, such as Paimārire, traditional dwelling places and forts, the places where the guardians live, and tools to help them deal with issues, that's what we've been doing. It started at Cambridge and completed here, at the mouth of Port Waikato.”
Some of the crew are prisoners released under bail conditions and from the community, but they have the same goal.
“I'm here for my whānau and myself”, says Wikaira.