Nursery helps South Auckland youth find guidance and employment
Te Whāngai Trust uses the Maori concepts of whāngai and whānau to help young people in South Auckland change lives and find careers – and they do it by growing plants. Justin Latif went to their Pukekohe site to find out more.
4 a.m .: Adrienne Dalton is woken up by her husband Gary with a cup of tea.
4:45 AM Gary jumps into a van to pick up a group of students in Huntly, while Adrienne heads to the office to begin her administrative work for the day.
Gary makes the two-hour round trip every day to pick up suspended high school students so they can gain work experience at one of the couple’s five nurseries run by the Te Whāngai Trust.
For the past 14 years, former farmers have swapped their dairy cows at dawn to help hundreds of struggling youngsters ‘light a flame’, as Adrienne puts it, and, hopefully, toss them into a wildfire. career.
As part of the government’s Jobs For Nature program, Acting Minister of Conservation Dr Ayesha Verrall announced last month that the trust will receive a share of a $ 2.5 million grant to boost employment opportunities in nature and conservation. Te Whāngai will use the funding to support a project to cultivate 480,000 native plants for riparian planting and urban landscaping.
Adrienne Dalton says the trust project, called Mana in Kaimahi, offers an opportunity to integrate ex-prisoners and those who left school early into nature-based jobs.
“It’s the perfect way to combine the healing aspects of working in nature for our children and our people coming out of prison. We provide them with comprehensive care, budget them, develop their life skills, so that they learn how to earn money. And every Friday they come here and they all do NZQA qualifying.
“It’s like family”
Despite the bitter winds that whistle between the greenhouses, the effervescence of Quanilla Paraha has not faded.
The bubbly 19-year-old says working for the trust has changed her life. “When the cops came to my house to pick up my brother, I asked them if they knew of any jobs or classes, and I’ve been here ever since.
Paraha attended Papakura High School, but left early after deciding that school “was not for me”. When she first arrived at Te Whāngai, she was “really quiet,” she says, but the organization helped her come out of her shell.
Today, two and a half years later, “it’s like family, this place”.
Along with her work in nurseries, Paraha is studying business and her goal is to take a leadership role within the organization.
“I would like to show other young people what they can do, rather than just sitting around doing nothing.
A translation of whāngai is to nourish or uplift. It is also the word describing the traditional Maori practice of raising a parent’s child. For the Daltons, the term is personal.
Adrienne’s father Pākehā was taken in by her Maori uncle’s family, and she says the family experience inspired her and her husband to make traditional Maori practices the basis of their charity’s work. .
“Each nursery is basically run by local iwi, and we have always had these relationships. Because my father was a Whāngai, he grew up respecting tikanga and indigenous values.
Adrienne has a background in special education and social care, but it was the tragic death of their daughter Leigh in a car accident that motivated Adrienne and Gary to create the trust in 2007, “to honor [Leigh’s] commitment to people and the environment ”.
“We have seen that children we know from sports or who visit us end up in Waikeria [prison] and we thought there had to be a way to support them. And we made it through the earth.
While the Department of Social Development provided initial support to the trust, when the government changed the funding, the funding was withdrawn. “So we just took out a mortgage and built our first nursery, and we just continued the kaupapa. “
Face the big ones
Te Whāngai Trust has an annual turnover of $ 3 million from supplying plants to organizations such as the Department of Conservation, Waikato Regional Council, Auckland Council and Panuku Development Auckland. He also has a range of corporate supporters including NZ Steel, Datacom, and Microsoft.
But the nursery industry can be tough, and trust struggles to secure contracts on major roads or commercial developments.
Adrienne says being able to join the Auckland Council’s Amotai Supplier Diversity Network, allowing the trust to be a supplier for these larger projects, would make a significant difference.
“But we have been told that we cannot join because, although we have indigenous frameworks and principles, we are not strictly a Maori organization. We fully understand why this criterion is in place, but we believe it is a gap in the system, given that we have an aboriginal framework and values in place.
Auckland Council for Community and Social Innovation chief executive Tania Pouwhare said that even though the trust is not eligible for Amotai, it can still access support as a social enterprise and get a funding for the Southern Council Initiative which helps organizations working with young people in the South and West Auckland to help them find employment.
“The Te Whāngai Trust not owned 50% by Maoris or Pasifikas would not prevent them from bidding on municipal contracts,” Pouwhare said.
“As a social enterprise, they can register with [social procurement platform] FWD with regard to the consultancy’s procurement objectives, [as] social enterprises are on the same footing as enterprises owned by Maori and Pasifika.
According to the Te Whāngai Trust website, the organization has planted more than a million trees and helped more than 500 people work. Adrienne says it’s both exhausting and incredibly rewarding work.
“Most of the kids we work with are involved in drugs in one way or another. And those who get out of prison are really tough and bitter. So it can be very difficult not to get too emotional.
“But for every child who sees the light, you know it’s a once-in-a-generation change that you’ve been able to help.
“These kids were considered unfit for work, but they are actually really amazing and they have an incredible resilience that no one else has.”
Subscribe to the Bulletin to get all of the day’s key news in five minutes – delivered every day of the week at 7:30 a.m.