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Heroes and hope

Tairawhiti churches were urged by a familiar guest speaker to acknowledge their ‘heroes’ as a way to ‘inspire’ rangatahi (young people) and to help rid the city of violence. Maika Akroyd finds out how a Hastings District Councillor for Flaxmere and Gisborne church leaders are inspiring change.

Born and bred in Ruatoria as a neighbour to East Coast rugby star George Nepia, prominent Maori leader Apirana Ngata and renowned orator Whaia McClutchie, Henare O’Keefe’s upbringing never fell short of inspiration and support.

The public speaker and community leader now resides in Flaxmere, Hastings where he has worked on eradicating severe social ills and restoring “peace and love” to the people.Mr O’Keefe visited Tairawhiti on Sunday to speak to the congregation at the Te Hahi (the church) combined church service at Alive Church on Leith Street.He spoke about his experiences living in the Flaxmere community and addressing alcohol-fuelled ills and fostering a safe and healthy environment.Part of Mr O’Keefe’s motivation for change was the violent invasion of his daughter’s home in 2008.Following the incident Mr O’Keefe organised the Enough is Enough hikoi (march) in Flaxmere where over 4,000 people attended.

Guthrie Boyd