‘This is where I want to be’
Zyon Swannell has found something far greater than “just” a job through the Tairawhiti Economic Support Package Redeployment Programme.
The 18-year-old is working with Whaia Titirangi (Kaiti Hill) as part of the kaitiaki project and it has opened his mind to valuable knowledge he didn't even realise was missing, like visiting his maunga (mountain) Hikurangi, learning about his whakapapa (genealogy) and gaining a more holistic wellness to his daily routine.
When Covid struck, Zyon was looking for outdoors-type work.
“This came along at just the right time and I love it,” he says.
It is proving to be a continuation of work he did with his “Papa” when growing up and working in native bush.
“It is so peaceful out here. You can hear yourself. I think everyone needs that time to think and reflect.”
But there is more to his daily mahi that fills his soul.
“The team here are like whanau to me now. The people really are the best thing about this. You just don't get that on other jobs.
“We all help each other in ways you wouldn't imagine, and there is a real wellness factor to this programme too that helps both physically and mentally.”
One of the “buzziest” things so far, though, was a chance to visit his maunga Hikurangi. “I told my mum we were going up the Coast and she was like ‘that's your maunga'. I had never seen it before . . . it was just special.”
He also holds Titirangi dear to his heart and gets a real kick out of the feedback the Whaia team get daily from the many who walk the maunga.
“I want to be on here for as long as I can,” says Zyon, who has gained qualifications in GrowSafe, first aid, health and safety and traffic control while on the programme and is in the throes of getting his driver's licence.
“This is where I want to be.”
Whaia Titirangi operational leader Jordan Tibble is ecstatic to see the growth from Zyon, who she previously worked alongside at Pak'nSave supermarket.
“It is so nice to see him up here, outside and enjoying his mahi like this, but the biggest thing for me was him learning his whakapapa through this project,” says Jordan.
The kaitiaki project is one of five that are part of the $23.755 million redeployment programme, which was established in response to the impacts of Covid-19 and aims to provide work and training for up to 200 people.
It is funded through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, administered by the Provincial Development Unit and managed by Gisborne District Council.
All those on the programme come through the Ministry of Social Development with the goal to ensure they not only find work but pick up new skills, qualifications and the opportunity of meaningful, long-term employment.