Instead of slowing down with the end of food deliveries, the Māori multi sports & health organisation Mātātoa is working harder than ever. That’s because the lockdown brought surprises they’re now building into their programmes.
“Whānau weren’t able to get takeaway food for quite a few weeks,” says Frank Haimona who leads the organisation.
He and his bi-lingual kaimahi deliver kauapapa Māori hākinakina and pūtaiao programmes in 27 Tāmaki Makaurau schools – kura kaupapa and schools with a reo Māori unit.
“Some of the most popular things on YouTube were how to make a rēwana bug, or parāoa parai. A lot of kids figured out you couldn’t get it at shops. I was getting my mother to disclose some of her little secrets and putting them out there.”
Being able to source food like puha was another eye-opener to many of the tamariki. So much so that Frank is now considering turning a few acres he has access to into a kura project for māra.
“The kura can decide to do kumara or rīwai or kamokamo and then as a co-lab give a koha back to our kaumātua or make chutneys or whatever they come up with.”
During the COVID-19 restrictions Mātātoa partnered with Māori-based superfood company Kaitahi Limited to deliver healthy kai packages to vulnerable whānau in Tāmaki Makaurau.
It was also a way of keeping in touch with the tamariki they already knew from the kura. Frank says he and the team of could provide a safety net for those who needed it.
“We all knew some kids who don’t have the best upbringing and that they might struggle. We wanted to ensure they would get to see us once or twice a week so we could see they were all still good.
“We’re not seen as teachers as such. We’re just the cool mātua or whaea who do all the tākaro Māori. We’d pick up on something if it was going on.”
Te Puni Kōkiri Senior Advisor, Eruera Lee-Morgan, has worked with Mātātoa on community initiatives including ‘Hīkoia Te Kōrero’ (Māori language parade) and can vouch for their adaptability and ongoing contribution to our communities.
“They’re able to diversify their skills and, whatever the situation demands, work to their strengths of sustaining kaupapa hauora,” Eruera says.
Mātātoa drew on their networks and relationships to create and distribute the kai packs. Contributions included harvests of kiwifruit and Kerikeri oranges. Community groups and whānau also donated vegetables and pūtea.
“Working together with like-minded and spirited people in the community meant we could complement each other in what we contributed to the middle,” Frank says, adding that the workload was evenly shared between groups.
That ability to work with others extends to exercise and the development of a Māori option on Auckland City Council’s scavenger hunt app, Goose Chase. It offered neighbourhood routes during Alert Level 4 and opened up further as the country moved levels.
“The more places people visit and the more challenges they complete the more points they get that can be exchanged for prizes like data. Kids will run around anywhere for data!
“We’re now thinking of doing it the whole year with various wero. We could have it going during Matariki with the challenge of finding different whetu.”
The Mātātoa team hasn’t stopped there. You can join them in rākau exercise every morning at 7am from a different maunga in Tāmaki Makaurau!
Photo: Early morning rākau exercise with the Mātātoa team