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Trust ‘humbled’ by donation

A charitable trust that teaches rangatahi valuable life skills has been gifted a Christmas donation.

Te Kura-a-Wao charitable trust was given $2000 by Downer as a part of their Downer Delights campaign.

“As a trust we are really humbled to be given this donation . . . it is a nice Christmas surprise,” Te Kura-a-Wao operations manager Keelan Poi said.

Downer Delights is a community-based initiative based on an advent calendar. Downer teams from across New Zealand nominate charities they want to give back to and for the 24 days leading up to Christmas, Downer will surprise at least one winner each day.

Gisborne business support manager, Shauna-Lee Jane, nominated Te Kura-a-Wao for its contribution to the community.

“Te Kura-a-Wao charitable trust is a great organisation that provides opportunities for rangatahi to reconnect with the whenua, moana and te taiao (environment),” she wrote in her nomination.

“They are there to support the growth of our young people, help guide them through challenges and prepare them with life skills.”

The trust was established in 2019 and uses basic courses to introduce rangatahi to new environments, leadership and life skills.

It began six years ago when Mr Poi and his father were contracted as outdoor instructors by a couple of tertiary education providers in Tairāwhiti to implement some of their programmes.

The father and son duo were asked to take the children into the bush and teach them life skills.

“We saw that we could work with them in a different way compared to working with them in a town setting or a classroom.”

Mr Poi said the children were “really engaged” with the activities and seemed to develop a “reconnection” with the bush and ngahere (forest).

Seeing the students' interest in learning new skills, the trust was formed.

“My focus was to get these kids away from digital devices, away from town and away from distractions and actually work with them in a safe and controlled environment out in the bush.

“I have the skills to be able to do that and so does my team,” he said.

A majority of the course instructors come from a military background, including Mr Poi, and have a range of different skill sets which encourage, develop and build up rangatahi on the courses.

“Every time I run a course I email all of my instructors and, based on their availability, we bring in three instructors for the week. That's how we run the course.”

Te Kura-a-Wao now also offer an online bushcraft course for rangatahi around the region. The five-week course is specific to Aotearoa and students will learn from experienced instructors.

They also offer three practical course options, beginner, intermediate and advanced, which build on a variety of skills.

Next month a “fun camp” will be held, where rangatahi will be taken into the bush and taught activities such as fishing and possum trapping.

The Downer Delight donation came as a surprise to Mr Poi, who said it would probably be used to upgrade the two cabins at one of the new locations at Kanakanaia.

“It will be perfect to assist in creating facilities for the kids.”

For expansion purposes (of the trust and course), Mr Poi bought the Kanakanaia farm and was in the process of making it course ready.

He said the second location would help the trust deliver about 50 percent of the programmes, while the remainder would be done in Ruatōrea.

“This gives us a bit more diversity. The Kanakanaia property is based on foraging and using the natural/native bush, while the one in Ruatōrea is focused around moana and the beaches and the river,” he said.

The trust can also design programmes for organisations. To get in touch contact tekuraawao@gmail.com

WORTHY RECIPIENT: Keelan Poi runs Te Kura-a-Wao, a charitable trust that teaches life skills to rangatahi. The trust has received a Christmas donation from Downer. Picture supplied
LEARNING NEW SKILLS: About 73 rangatahi have signed up for the first ‘fun camp' scheduled to take place in January. Picture supplied