Whaingaroa rangatahi: It takes a village

“It takes a village to raise a child,” is a proverb known around the world that rings true in every community.

It specifically rang true to me while sitting in last week’s Raglan Naturally Rangatahi Hui held at the Kokiri Centre.

In line with the revitalisation of the Raglan Naturally Community Plan, small hui’s are being held to gain an understanding of where each sector of our community is currently at. These meetings bring together those who are playing an active role in that particular space and welcomes those who have an interest in being a part of the conversation in regards to the meetings topic.

Last week’s hui was focussed around the rangatahi, the youth, of our community and was attended by those who have been supporting the rangatahi in a number of ways. From school counsellors to youth engagement and activity coordinators, to some of our communities favourite whāea kēkē, we sat alongside each other and were joined by a few youth representatives.

As we went around the room introducing ourselves and why we decided to come along, Charlie Irvin, one of the youth representatives made a very poignant statement in regards to her reason for being there.

“You can’t make plans for the youth without knowing what they want, and you won’t really know what we want unless you talk to us…”

Charlie was joined by a few other youth including, Sven Seddon, Lexi Holmes and Rangi Rongo. While Lexi has just finished at Raglan Area School (RAS) this year and Rangi a few years ago, the two are passionate about the community and in specific the work being done with the youth. Rangi has been working at RAS and assisted Whaea Bronwyn in running the Youth Hub when it was open.

Introductions were followed by two different activities, one for envisioning the type of community we want for our youth and the other for creating a community map of the strengths, resources and assets that we currently have that will help to support that vision.

What was made clear after we finished was the amount of work so many are doing for the youth and the amazing opportunities that are currently available to them.

However, it was also clear that there is still so much work to be done in order to really tautoko, to support, our youth and help them feel that sense of inclusion in the place that they call home.

One massive topic that has been in the back of mind for some time now is gentrification. However, up until last week, I had never considered how gentrification can affect the youth within a community.

With the ever-growing population, and the continuous changing vibe and landscape of the town, some of the rangatahi who have been raised here since they were young, are understandably feeling quite displaced.

While gentrification is happening in small, eclectic communities around the world similar to ours, not enough research has been done in regards to how it actually impacts the youth in those specific areas.

So, for a minute, you might want to imagine things from a youth’s perspective. … for example, imagine being in an already struggling family that faces a rent rise in their current home, resulting in a loss of somewhere to live and the family having to relocate.

Imagine… your old childhood neighbourhood where you once knew every face on the block, is now full of new faces… some who scowl at you through their windows for the way you dress or the way you wear your hat.

Imagine… riding your bike down the street, where a few years back you freely ran and played, and being told you weren’t allowed to do that anymore, for no good reason at all.

These are only some of the struggles the rangatahi in our community are facing today.

It made me wonder at what point in our lives do we forget that we too, were once them.

And that we too, just wanted to be heard.

In a recent study done in Raglan by the Fire and Emergency New Zealand National Headquarters, they found that the number of youth in Raglan ages 0 to 14 is actually above the national average for New Zealand. Meaning, our community is literally full of kids.

Taking that into consideration, we need to be seeking out the voice of the youth at any chance we get when it comes to making plans for the future of our community. Because in reality, these ‘long-term plans’ will affect them more than they will affect us.

Our daily interactions with the youth will impact not just their own personal future, but the future of the communities they choose to settle in.

We owe it to ourselves to be more open to their needs, their hopes and their dreams. To tautoko them in whatever way we can and to create a community where they are given the opportunity to become the best possible versions of themselves that they can be.

Karamea Puriri

Find out more about the Raglan Naturally Community Plan by visiting Raglan Naturally on Facebook, www.facebook.com/RaglanNaturally. If you are interested in joining an up-and-coming Raglan Naturally kōrero, email raglannaturally@gmail.com to find out how you can get involved.

Photo by Christelle Berthon. Rangatahi perform a haka for Whaea Bronwyn, during a BBQ held for youth at Papahua/Kopua Domain.