Having spent a full and indeed hard days mahi (work) with a newly formed organisation focussed on housing the homeless, I realise how important their mahi was in ensuring it was underpinned by Maori values. I want to start writing about my experiences of this in regard to how adhering to such values and principles is critical also to the mahi of Pumahara Consultants.
These core values provide the foundation for our mahi and underpin our outcomes:
Kaitiakitanga: managing and conserving the environment as part of a reciprocal relationship, based on the Māori world view that humans are part of the natural world
Manaakitanga: the ethic of holistic hospitality whereby Mana Whenua have inherited obligations to be the best hosts they can be
Wairuatanga: the immutable spiritual connection between people and their environments
Kotahitanga: unity, cohesion, and collaboration
Whanaungatanga: a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging
This week’s blog in reflection of yesterdays workshop will focus on the latter, the value of ‘whanaungatanga’.
The organisation I worked with yesterday (Mangatakitahi – Housing First Rotorua) gathered itself together very quickly during last years Covid lockdown to establish a support system to house the homeless in their small city in the North Island or Aotearoa (NZ). They found an old hotel site which had been used to present shows portraying Maori tikanga and waiata etc. so it had a wharenui on site. The rooms and the rest of the hotel were quickly adjusted to meet the needs of the individuals they planned to take under their care and support and the service began. They are now at the point where they are supporting well over 500 homeless people in various places throughout their region. All in just a few months.
Such an undertaking was not without its risks and challenges and just by the mere vulnerability of their client group and all the associated social and health related risks and social determinants (which of course housing is critical) that come with homelessness such as poor mental health, poor physical health, substance use and abuse and trauma it become evident that some de-escalation training for the staff might be useful. That’s where I come in.
So yesterday I arrived to deliver to their staff group. It didn’t just begin there, the to-ing and fro-ing of the relationship begun with supportive clear online communication to get us to this point. Anyhow I was collected from my hotel and taken to the venue. I entered the wharenui (I must remember to take socks) for my day’s session. The warmth and appropriate hugs immediately helped me feel welcome. The day began with karakia (prayer) and waiata (song) followed by introductions and welcome speeches at which as the guest facilitator one is made to feel incredibly special. I then bumbled through my own introductions still struggling to develop my own mihi (introduction in te reo – the Maori language)
Now I know that for those of you living in Aotearoa none of this ritual is news and you have all probably experienced it often – my colleagues and friends overseas probably haven’t however so bear with me as I describe this.
Anyway, formalities over with, we were underway. The day was full of sharing, sadness, laughter, and challenge. I believe it worked so well because whanaungatanga had set the scene – there was a shared engagement where I learned as much from my ‘learners’ as they might have from me.
Lunch was a sit-down meal with beautifully prepared kai (food), a task undertaken with some of their non-attending staff and clients as well again incorporating that principle of whanaungatanga.
The day ended with a sharing of learned wisdom and reflection (Māramatanga – enlightenment, insight) and I was so wonderfully gifted a koha (a gift) of pounamu representative of the Maunga (mountain) of the local tribe. It’s a beautiful taonga (treasure) I will use to remind me of the amazing mahi of these people I shared my day with. It was a day where I learned the truth and importance of the value of Whanaungatanga: a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging
I hope to meet these folk again. I really do.