What is the most important thing to you?
H A K A R A I A
Tōku whānau, tōku whakapapa, tōku oranga.
Ko Pukenui-ō-raho, Maungapōhatu me Pūtauaki ngā maunga
Ko Tauranga, Ōhinemataroa, Rangitaiki me Tarawera ngā awa
Ko Te Pou Pāpaka rātou ko Te Pūrewa, ko Uiraroa, ko Māwake Taupo ōku Tīpuna
Ko Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa me Ngāti Tūwharetoa ōku iwi
Ko tēnei tōku pepeha, tōku oranga.
This is my proverbial statement, my well-being.
For a Māori whom has now lived in an urban setting for what is close to 20yrs of my life, Home is where the heart is, and for me, my whānau, my connections are my oranga.
Each mountain, river, and ancestor hold a special significance to the makeup of my DNA. I am the mountain, I am the river, and it is I.
The above entities are the core in which keeps me grounded and provides me with a balanced state of mind. Throughout the rigors of working in both a social service and mental health setting which is almost nearing 14yrs, I can always reflect back to my very roots to provide sanity in what can be a chaotic day, week, month, year or years.
And this does not include my personal life. But I am thankful that both my immediate and very, very extended whānau are also reflective of the very thing that keeps us all grounded and sane, our roots, or what we affectionately call ‘HOME’.
When I reflect on the word ‘privilege’, it is often associated with things such as rich, wealthy or well off, which are a foreign concept to my whānau. My mother and her 11 siblings grew up in a one bedroom house in Onepū just outside of Kawerau in the eastern Bay of Plenty. When I was born, I spent some time in the same place in Onepū before moving to a 2 bedroom house in Avondale with my mum, my grandparents, 2 of my Aunts and a heap of my first cousins. However, what we lacked in resources and what some today would consider ‘living under the poverty line’, we never saw it in that way. The fact we were able to live communally amongst a household which fostered close to 18 people, being raised alongside my grandparents who were steeped in te reo Māori, Tikanga, Kawa, and Whakapapa, we sourced richness and wealth in other forms. When my grandparents decided to move to Auckland, we were so distant from what we call home, but Nan and Koro were relentless in making sure my whānau would never forget our roots. They knew whānau and Whakapapa hold the key to our well-being.
So why do those things hold significance to me and play an integral part in my mental health and well-being?
It is interesting that in my time working in social services and mental health and the number of frameworks and tools I have learned and acquired, and in my profession, a lot of my colleagues forget that they can be used more as a self-assessment tool as opposed to something we would operate with whaiora – our whānau, tamariki, and rangatahi we work for.
Te Whare Tapa Whā by Sir Mason Durie is one of those very models and frameworks I use quite often to check my own mental health and well-being. With a holistic view looking at the four corners or pillars of the whare which are:
- Wairua (spiritual health)
- Tinana (physical strength)
- Hinengaro (emotional health)
- Whānau (family)
I constantly check that in each of those paradigms I am effective enough to operate in any space, encounter, relationships etc I have throughout the day. In this case, the focus for me is te taha wairua or the spiritual pillar. This to me reflects how my general mood is from the time I awaken and through pockets of the day, which then informs my self-esteem in those very moments. For me, if my wairua is in good balance, the other 3 pillars will come right. All people have a different way in terms of how they better do this, whether it be with a good cup of coffee (hinengaro), a session at the gym (tinana), a morning selfie for facebook (wairua) etc. For some of the more vulnerable, it may look very different and often scary for the privileged person living in Aotearoa.
For me, it’s reflecting on my roots that provide me with balance, but also as a means to motivate me every day as it was those very privileges that I was taught from birth and continue to learn every day that some of our very vulnerable I work for would have never experienced. Like my grandfather who worked for Māori Affairs, whom also assisted Sir John Rangihau in the creation of Puao Te Atatu and later become a caregiver under Mātua Whāngai until creating one of the first urban Māori Kohanga Reo in Auckland for those whom are living distant from their own whakapapa, the legacy he left for my whānau is the same legacy I intend on doing today.
What is that legacy? To me, it is about helping and assisting the needy and vulnerable, in particular, Māori whānau who are in need of support. He did this by first influencing people to go learn and reflect on their pepeha, to learn their identity as he believed that this will provide a different world view to that of where and what they have learned or grown up with or in. This is the foundation that he was steeped in which he passed down to my mum, to me and now I teach the same values, principles, and whakapapa to my daughter. It is also an integral part in how I engage with whānau, tamariki, and rangatahi, for them to understand what ‘HOME’ could mean for them so that they could feel the same state of balance in my mental health that I have been honored to manage for the majority of my life.
In closing, I reflect on a whakatauaki which was articulated by the late Dr. Ngāpo Wehi, a tutor, mentor and cousin of my grandfather who was a strong advocate about whakapapa and pepeha providing balance to a person’s overall well-being. I have had the honor of learning under Koro Ngapo who uttered the words:
‘Ki te wātea te hinengaro, me te pai o te rere o te wairua, ka tāea ngā mea katoa’
If the mind is free, and the spirit is flowing, you can achieve anything