Te Rau Aroha Kennedy was lonely, frustrated and even worse, he was bored!
The 22-year-old of Tainui descent had been back home living in Huntly for two years on a small rural property surrounded by loving whānau but where friends for him were few and far between.
His parents Rose and Mike Kennedy returned from Sydney, Australia to New Zealand when Rose’s mother needed some tender loving care.
Living on the property, Te Rau Aroha had been mainly watching videos, playing music and being fed, all the time being fussed and pampered over his mother and grandmother.
Whānau showed their love with lots of love, caring and delicious food but the once outgoing and active young man found his pace slowed down, he put on extra weight and it was becoming an effort for him to talk or to do any outdoor activities.
Te Rau has Down’s Syndrome but this had not prevented him socialising well in high school or from having friends and an active life in Australia.
In Huntly, there were relatives all around, but Te Rau Aroha didn’t have a friend who could understand him, who would listen to him, play with him at the things that he loves … and just be with him.
Rose and Mike heard about Ngā Mara Ātea, the marae-based programme run by Life Unlimited Charitable Trust (now known as
Your Way | Kia Roha) at Kirikiroa Marae in Hamilton.
They and Te Rau Aroha met former team leader Honey Hireme and some of the other participants and carers.
With the assistance of Bell Martin at Enabling Good Lives, he was able to join the programme in August 2017.
The first day was a success, he met an old school friend Te Ngore, and made a new friend in Riki.
“Te Rau Aroha, always wakes up early for the hour-and-a-half drive to Kirikiriroa Marae. He’s always talking about his new friends,” says Rose.
“Last week, even though he’d been feeling a bit crook, he begged me to take him to the programme. That’s how much he loves it!
“He’s got his old confidence back, he’s talking more and he’s doing a whole lot of new activities like dancing, singing, playing music and more,” she says.
Everyone is happy.