ATAWHAI, a rangatahi program in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa, is developing the skills and attitudes young Māori need to take part in society through physical conditioning.
Participating on the program, 12-year-old Te Paea Maurirere is an intermediate student at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Horouta Wānanga.
“They're instilling working as one, following instructions and they tell us to push through until the task is complete, to endure and never give up,” says Maurirere.
Also participating in the program, Charlie Brown is an intermediate student at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori Ngā Uri a Māui. She says, “Standing upright, listening to the directions of the instructors. We're bonding, working together through physical training, running as a team.”
21 students from a range of schools in the Tūranganui-a-Kiwa region are taking part, 60% are female.
Roimata Mangi (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whātua, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi) served in the NZ Army for seven years and is helping out with the program.
“It's a big challenge for the girls, and these boys, to stand strong and find their feet in this dynamic world. They're getting older, so it's important for them to find a path, to work together with the boys, it's a positive initiative," says Mangi.
The ATAWHAI course runs for up to nine weeks, with three one-hour training sessions per week, in progressively harder physical routines. Physical trainer Tim Brown says it's a solid platform for rangatahi to launch from as they head into their teenage years.
Brown (Te Aitanga a Māhaki) says, “If we don't do something earlier, don't intervene at this age here, they're going to struggle big time at wharekura and te ao hurihuri. Giving them self-discipline- the only way they're going to get somewhere in life- they have to focus on their mahi, on what's in front of them.”
Now at the halfway point, participants are beginning to manifest the values of the ATAWHAI program.
“At the beginning, they didn't want to come every morning, they'd arrive tired, now all of the kids are standing tall and proud," says Mangi.
The program will culminate with 'the longest day', a half-day physical trial on 9 December.