14 rangatahi aged 13-15, with connections to the east side of Rotorua have just finished a 5-day programme called Tiakanga Tu. This is a collaboration between Tatau Pounamu, Te Waiariki Purea Trust and Rotorua Community Youth Centre Trust.

The programme was designed to help our rangatahi build resilience, self confidence and celebrate their uniqueness as well as learn some tricks on how to cope when you are feeling out of their comfort zone, or when life is not going according to plan.

The 5 day programme was based out at the Owhata Marae and everyday the rangatahi headed out into nature to learn water safety skills as well as strengthen their connection to our taiao (environment) and culture. Each day bought a whole new set of challenges within a new environment. These included paddling down the Ohau Channel, walking into Tarawera Falls, jumping off cliffs and swimming across the Kaituna river and climbing up to the top of Mount Maunganui for a beach day.

As well as building connections to taiao (environment) and wai (water), the programme included a powhiri, lots of team building and korero on supporting themselves and others aiming to increasing their whanaungatanga and belonging to people and places. Each young graduate was gifted a pounamu toki thanks to Mountain Jade to represent their journey and a reminder of their strength and uniqueness!

The feedback from the rangatahi who participated in the programme was really positive and included expressing that they loved the opportunity to build new friendships, explore new places, chill, learn outdoor skills as well as create new connections and have lots of laughs. Nearly all the young people wished it was longer and that there was an overnight stay. With such an overwhelming positive response, Tiakanga Tu seems like a winner! So watch this space!