The wide smiles on faces everywhere contrasted with the dignified portraits that lined the dining room at Whakahurangi Marae on Friday at a dinner and performance given by the kapahaka group who have been staying there for two weeks.
The marae has hosted Ngaa Tipuranga O Waewaeroa, a group which numbers up to 40 youngsters, along with tutor Maioha Tokotaua, over the school holidays.
The group has only been running since early this year, but is aiming to compete at Puanga, the regional kapa haka championships at Waitara in October.
Tokotua , who lives at Mahoe with 10 young people in his care, said he was very grateful for the support and hospitality of the marae.
A 2am visit from the police investigating an assault in a nearby street in the middle weekend of the holidays had been upsetting for the children but organisers had made a big effort to carry on the programme as planned and rebuild the children's confidence, he said. Elders from the marae are to meet police to discuss the incident.
The group had been out busking and selling soup to raise money in Prospero Pl in Stratford and also outside Centre City in New Plymouth, with the funds raised going towards the dinner on Friday evening to thank the marae whanau, for their hospitality.
The children also spent a day, dressing up in the style of their ancestors who are seen in early photographs and portraits, and having their photographs taken. This had been a great way to restore the children's confidence and dignity, he said.
Copies of the portraits in old-fashioned sepia tones were being sold to raise funds for the group and they would also be printing a calendar, to help pay for uniforms.
One of the group members, Boston Weston, 16, said it was much more than just a kapa haka group, providing some members with support with life issues. Some of the young people in the group had dropped out of school but with Maioha's encouragement were now returning to school.
"We started at Mahoe School with just 20 people, now there are 45 in the group.
"We're hoping to go travelling to competitions, that's our goal."
The young people, supported by parents and other adult volunteers, had done all the work in preparing the meal, welcoming the guests on to the marae and staging the entertainment.
- Taranaki Daily News
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