Ngā Mara Ātea is many things to Harata Te Whetu – and one of the most significant is its stability.
Before joining the programme, based at Kirikiriroa Marae in urban Hamilton, Harata had spent time in schools and programmes in Taupo, the Coromandel Peninsular, Morrinsville, Ngaruawahia and Huntly.
Today the 41-year-old is one of the long-servers at Ngā Mara Ātea, which provides a marae-based programme for people with disabilities.
She has been there for 10 of the 19 years the programme has been running.
Harata, whose family are Tuhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu, had a nomadic time in her youth and spent periods in a number of Waikato, King Country and Coromandel communities before moving to Hamilton from Morrinsville.
She made her final move to Hamilton, and switched from living with one sister to another after her mother died.
Harata is shy to smile when the camera comes out, but she has an air of confidence in social situations, in this case making a note of the interviewer’s name and using it regularly to ask him questions.
Some clients in the programme transition to work and Harata has tried her hand at hospitality, but for now, the 8.30am-3pm Monday to Friday routine at Kirikiriroa suits her.
She enjoys the programmes which have helped her with healthy eating and cooking, and also places a strong focus on her heritage with karakia, kapa haka, karakia and waiata as key components of her day.
So is participation in sport – on the day she spoke to InfoLink the sun was out, so armed with sunscreen, the team headed out to an adjacent field for a highly vocal game of bat down.
Harata talks fondly of her nephew Junior James De Young who is at Te Aroha College and is a highly promising basketballer.
She is particularly proud of the fact he was selected for the New Zealand team which played in the Under-15 Oceania championships in Papua New Guinea last year.
The Life Unlimited (now known as Your Way | Kia Roha) team who care for Harata are impressed with her too as, community facilitator Alex Stockley explains.
“She thrives around people and our programme has some aspects of goals as well as focussing on life skill, fitness, health and culture. It is community-oriented and Harata is a people person.
“Our programme is goals focussed and within our weekly schedule, we cover aspects of life skills, health and fitness, community activities, crafts and dance.
Although we are a multi-cultural programme, we strongly cater to cultural components through kapa haka, karakia, waiata and pepeha,” Alex said.
“It’s really amazing to see their confidence grow through all of the activities we provide.”