Help kids feel proud to be Maori
Being Maori has helped one Stratford man through some tough times.
And it is the knowledge and strength he has in his own identity which he hopes to pass onto a group of young people he works with in the town.
For Maioha Tokotaua, te reo Maori is an important part of his cultural identity and something passed down to him by his grandfather.
''He decided it was time to pass on that reo to the kids,'' said Tokotaua, who is of Ngati Maru, Ngati Mutunga, Te Atiawa, Ngaruahine and Ngati Ruanui descent.
After attending total immersion Maori schooling till the age of 12, Tokotaua and his family re-located to Australia, which he described as a ''hard'' transition.
He said he and his siblings went to mainstream schools and required extra support to help them adjust.
''Our English was really horrible,'' he said.
However, he said he continued to use te reo during the time he lived across the Tasman.
''If someone would korero in the reo I would have as much conversation as I could,'' he said.
This included using Maori greetings as part of his job as a hotel manager and speaking te reo at home and with family.
''We did what we would to retain what we had,'' he said.
Tokotaua said it was also his Maori culture which helped him get through some extremely tough times, including a significant trauma he suffered at the age of 13.
''When I was in that situation, it was me being Maori that got me through that,'' he said.
Tokotaua, who returned to New Zealand four years ago to work for his iwi, has now taken on an unofficial role of youth worker in the town.
He provides ongoing care and support to ten teenagers while also running a group known as Waewaerua, which has a membership of about 50 youth from Stratford.
While some of the time he spends with the youth is centred around cultural activities like kapahaka, he also makes time to talk with them one on one.
''What's really important for me is sitting there and helping them find their identity,'' he said.
He said out of the young people he worked with, only about three knew their whakapapa.
Tokotaua said addressing their cultural and social needs needed to be achieved first.
''The language will come later, first let's look after the wellbeing of our kids,'' he said.
He said initiatives like Maori Language Week helped to give kids an opportunity to see and hear their culture on display in the community.
''That's a way to help kids feel proud to be Maori,'' he said.
But it is the ongoing support the young people needed from their own whanau and iwi which was more important in the long term, Tokotaua said.
In the meantime, he would do what could to help the youth he worked with navigate their way towards finding out more about what made them Maori.
''For me, this is what comes first,'' he said.
Favourite whakatauki or proverb:
Na to Raurau
Na toku Raurau
Ka ora ae te iwi
With your basket and my basket, the iwi shall survive.
Taranaki Daily News