Volunteers are given a special award at womens prison.

By Tema Hemi
  • Auckland

Two special volunteers have received an award for doing their bit at the Mirimiri Te Aroha Māori Focus Unit at the Auckland Region Women's Corrections facility. The duo says reconnecting inmates to their past through kapahaka has brought a change of attitude amongst inmates.

For the last 18 months Letitia Taikato and Ariana Williams have been doing their best to help women in prison. 

Taikato says, "These wāhine, sometimes I walk in and I feel like the tauira. You just learn so much from them and just how they're able to maintain their mana and their dignity in whatever situation. So I love to just try and come in and share the passion with them."

Williams says, "The main focus is to unite our Māori traditions, our Māori policies and bring them to this mainstream setting to teach the many women here."

Reconnecting these women to their roots has been their aim. 

Taikatoa also says, "To be able to come in and share this space in a Māori way that's what I love so much about so that our whānau connect back to their roots so who they are whether inside or outside it doesn't matter."

Williams says it's been a challenge coming up with new concepts to teach every week.

And she goes on to say, "Mostly they are really keen to learn, perhaps the hardest challenge is because their keen and really quick to learn every week Leticia and I have to devise more new things to teach."

Prison management are satisfied with their program and want to continue to support it.

Prison Director Lyn O'Connor says, "I know the benefits are the things they take away that they hold close to their hearts with true aroha about the work that Ariana and Leticia have done onsight their 18 months of work has been invaluable."

The duo will continue on with the inmates and plan to introduce other aspects of Te Ao Māori to them for the rest of this year.