Fifteen tane graduated from a pilot programme at Te Whānau O Waipareira called Ana Tangata, a period of time that has completely changed their lives thanks to the kaimahi who ran it.
Ana Tangata – literally translates as a Cave Of Man, or a dark place in which men reside. It is also a reference to men coming out of the dark and into the light.
Te Whānau O Waipareira kaimahi Richard Green knew Ana Tangata was not only necessary for Māori men, it was something he passionately wanted to be a part of.
“The goal was for us to create an area where men could come and share their feelings, their emotions without being judged. It ended up being so much more both in the amount of tane we had and also what we were able to do together to shift their journey onto a brighter path. Only one tane dropped away early, but at the end, 15 graduated”.
Crystal therapy, embracing te reo, kapa haka, mirimiri, taonga puoro and healing sessions were some of the experiences the men enjoyed while being enveloped in manaakitanga. Their mana has been re-built from the inside out while solidifying a brotherhood.
These are their journeys. These are their voices.
Rodney is a 45-year-old father to seven children and he is on his way to positive change.
“I’m on a journey because Oranga Tamariki have my kids at the moment and I came out of a toxic relationship with my partner from drugs and all that. I did my rehab in a boarding house and I did try to end my life, I did follow through with that. About two years ago I was living in the Ranui Caravan park, we’ve all heard about that place and it was not good for me”.
Rodney’s Dad is from Invercargill while his Mother hails from Waikato. Sadly the past few years have been full of tragedy and pain.
“Basically I’m like an Urban Māori and I feel like I have no roots. Both my parents died, then my grandad died followed by me getting kicked out by my partner and losing my kids, all in the same year. I had no family to turn too, I was just walking around lost. I was self-harming, I was so depressed and I thought I could do my journey on my own, but I couldn’t”.
The only whānau Rodney knew for a long time was his dog Scooby who was much more than just a companion. Scooby rescued Rodney.
“One day, I had had enough of being on the street. So I got a knife, put it deep in my arm and bled out, hiding underneath a tree while the police were looking for me. Scooby found me, led the police to me and they took me to hospital. That’s why I look after him, he’s the only loyal “person” in my life. My kids are being shipped all over the place, some of them are being abused. It’s the second time I have lost them. I’ve done all the OT courses but I lost them again last Christmas and now I am working towards being better, I’m just on a journey of redemption”.
Rodney admits that he was reluctant to approach Te Whānau o Waipareira offices because he felt scared of the reaction, the judgement and possible rejection. Thoughts that were fuelled by his own shame and loneliness.
“I didn’t know who to talk too, how to go about it and I just felt like I was stuck in these four walls every day and I just wanted out. I used to be a real confident person, even talking and I lost my confidence along the way so when someone told me to come here for help, it took me like two weeks to walk in here. But I did. They took me in, introduced me and life’s been going up since then”.
Being a father is important to Rodney and while he realises he can’t go back and change the past, he is determined to have a brighter future.
“I have done a lot of self-reflection on myself. I had to do it for my babies. So I just knocked it on the head. The addiction, the drugs I was doing, through the toxic relationship to everything that has happened. I lost everything. And finally I decided I was gonna go straight, to do it straight and I needed somewhere to go. Waipareira helped me with their wraparound services, through their drug counselling through Grant Wilson. He would come and talk to me every week, just to get that boost, and that’s how I ended up here”.
Rodney has been involved with Waipareira for almost 18 months now and when he recalls the man he was back then, he shakes his head in disbelief.
“There’s a big difference. I’m not blaming myself and feeling alone. I’m not letting all that guilt get to me, it’s still there, but I have other people to talk to on these courses where we can share our stories. Even if I’m having a down day, I look forward to coming here because then it’s wiped away all that stress. And I feel like I’m doing something, rather than sitting in my boarding house staring at the walls. Plus I am looking after Scooby my old dog that I had since our relationship and he’s like 17 now”.
Rodney now has other goals and his next one is to get his own whare that will be large enough for him, his children and Scooby.
“I’ve had to watch my kids grow up without me. To be honest, if I had not walked into Waipareira that day I probably would have ended my life. These guys saved me. Everything about that course is so good, all the kaimahi make you feel at home. I feel purpose to wake up in the morning to come here and I feel awesome when I leave. It boosts my confidence, it was what I really needed”.
Matua Howie says his story began when he found himself living in his van with his two dogs and he falling between the cracks. By the time he was into his second winter living that way depression set in.
“I got deserted by the mainstream care providers and I found myself suffering from anxiety. I was in a dark place and I was calling all the mainstream services but they weren’t hearing me”.
Howie is referring to the Ministry Of Social Development who would not refer him to a Māori kaimahi and he felt misunderstood by the person at the other end of the phone.
“They virtually left me stranded. I felt like I was on probation with them. And then one day I was talking to a person who mentioned Waipareira and at that time I was thinking of self-harming methods”.
While Matua Howie was aware of Te Whānau o Waipareira, it took a conversation with an acquaintance to encourage him through the door.
“Straight away they just wanted to listen to me, they heard my story and they didn’t make any judgements. They went away and then came back and said they were going to fix it. And do you know what? I actually believed them”.
What Matua was seeing for the first time was the Māori holistic way of approaching him and his situation.
“They knew what I was going through, they understood the Māori health problem was bad and they really wanted to help me. They asked me to come back in and visit with one of the kaimahi, his name was Tohe, and immediately we made a connection. Straight away he started helping me out and as I continued my journey with the Waipareira Trust I found I was coming out of that dark little place I had been in. I was going on these programmes through the Trust. I found that I was actually finding myself again and my whole wairua, tinana and hinengaro all started improving. And then, they let me know that I actually had something to offer. No-one had said that to me for a long time”.
Howie began his journey eight months ago by becoming part of a couple of different programmes through the Waipareira Trust which started having positive effects almost immediately.
“I get up every day with energy and purpose and I go along. I find there are a lot of people like myself there with similar experiences so I know how to engage with them. People who are lost, who only think day-to-day and I let them know that I want to listen to them. Through the Trust I have managed to dig myself out of the hole I was in. They are there for me, they wrap me in services and they never give up on me. I’m still here and I know I have a bit of a future ahead of me”.
Howie can’t speak highly enough of the experiences he has had with the kaimahi who run it.
“It’s just done so much for me. The people I’ve met and the people who run it are so uplifting, they share so much with you and it rubs off on me. I would like to be a lot like them, they are examples to me of what I need to do to move myself forward. For every one of those guys I take my hat off to them, they’re just there for you. I would not get that anywhere else, nowhere mainstream because they make it so it’s about us and I think that’s pretty special”.
Howie believes he was programmed by the mainstream agencies about Māori being portrayed in a negative way and that’s what he had become used to.
“I know it’s never been like that, I’ve just been lost through the system because I was just a number. But now I feel like I am somebody. Waipareira brought that out in me and I just want to be a part of it. I am sad Ana Tangata is ending, I wish it went on forever, but you have to be a realistic about things. I’ve gotta make my own way, so that’s what I’m going to do. The seed is already planted in me and I just gotta pull it out of my kete. And hopefully it affects me and everyone around me in a positive way”.
Richard is hopeful that Ana Tangata becomes a regular fixture of Waipareira.
“I think for some of them, like Rodney and Howie, the course must run so people like him have somewhere to go. Somewhere to socialise, meet other tane and give them a sense of purpose and belonging. With kaimahi, a set programme and solid funding Ana Tangata could be permanent and it will make so much difference to their lives. It’s successful and there’s clearly a demand for it. We need to make it happen”.