Te Pae Hononga — empowering iwi members
Mother of six Serenity Reti-Huch whaanau had a life changing experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of Te Pae Hononga, a Te Kei o Te Waka Tainui initiative, the family were able to stay connected to hapuu, iwi, and the rest of Aotearoa during those tough times.
Throughout this blog, the Waikato-Tainui convention of spelling with double vowels is used, with the exception of macrons for a person’s name or organisation.
How the journey began
Serenity found out about a programme empowering members of her iwi with Internet connectivity, device access, and culturally centred learning.
“I registered myself and my whaanau. I was on a journey about whakapapa and knowing who I was and what made me who I am. I made contact through our iwi and then we went from there.” Fortunately, the team at Te Pae Hononga were already aware of Serenity and her whaanau and were poised to help.
Tina Kaiawe of Te Pae Hononga explains: “Before we began Te Pae Hononga, we worked off a database of whaanau, and Serenity was on that list. It was very clear during our zoom session that Serenity had one device. So, it was clear to us that we needed to provide internet for this whaanau.”
A 'mana-enhancing programme'
Whaanau were gifted devices and an Internet connection, with the act of being ‘given to’ rather than ‘taken from’ being profoundly important in making this a mana-enhancing programme.
Due to Serenity’s work as a teacher, she felt confident navigating the online world but the Internet wasn’t being used at home until the pandemic hit. “The covid period pushed us into that space because we had no way to communicate. We needed a way to connect with my parents during that time but we didn’t have anything to connect with. We never had the internet in our own homes. Having it (during the pandemic) gave us access to talk to our roopu and decide how we were going to navigate it and learn together.”
Te Pae Hononga provided whaanau-centric training, cultivating mutual intergenerational learning and connection. "The children could do their schoolwork and navigate through their learning online. I saw it as an opportunity to get my kids to love learning rather than struggle learning. But it was so much more than that. We reached a space where we strengthened our relationship. My husband showed me that there was still mamae (hurt) in my heart about growing. I was able to solidify my connection with my kids." The waananga format — connection back to the marae, sharing kai, learning and embarking on haerenga (Journey) together — all helped to foster connections among the participants, as well as a sense of confidence. “The kids have built their confidence and they’re going into spaces where their voices can be heard. They’re able to connect with their own whenua and collaborate with their cousins. Through the programme, we’ve met twice and learned about their whenua, and climbed their maunga (mountain). We’re thankful to everyone who has allowed this to happen. It is needed.”
The purpose of the programme has grown since its inception, with Chair of Te Kei o Te Waka Tainui, Maxine Graham summing up what it set out to achieve and what else it has managed to do along the way. “Te Pae Hononga is centred in connections. Connecting to your iwi, connecting to your whaanau, connecting to your whenua, connecting to that which makes one feel connected to purpose. Driven by whaanau voice, Te Pae Hononga began as a vision to address a whaanau need and address digital inequities. Over this pilot year, it has taken on a life of its own — and taught each one of us that connections exist wherever we choose to be present. We are grateful for all those who choose to be a part of this journey with us.” For Serenity and her whaanau, she’s grateful to have been supported by the iwi and the programme, which has helped her household grow.
“This process has helped me learn about myself and form strong connections to my children. We’ve been able to learn about who we are. It’s helped with every essence of my home. We did projects together, discussed, talked, and cried and laughed. Ultimately, we did everything together. It’s been an amazing journey.” I’ve also learnt a lot about the importance of staying connected. If you allow people to be a taonga to you,
you can be a taonga to them.”
More about the programme
Te Pae Hononga is a by Māori, for Māori initiative led by members of Te Kei o Te Waka, Tainui. The group facilitates digital inclusion for iwi descendants in South Auckland, helping them find their feet in an increasingly tech driven world. Initially it was designed and delivered as a partnership between Te Kei o Te Waka Tainui, Waikato Tainui, Te Rourou — One Aotearoa Foundation and Toi Āria: Design for Public Good and Quality Education Services. Te Pae Hononga received funding from InternetNZ in 2023.