Waka Ama programme to bring local tamariki together

More local tamariki will be given the opportunity to participate in waka ama thanks to a $35,000 grant from Rotorua Trust.

The funding will be used to create eight single waka and other equipment fit for primary and intermediate-aged tamariki to lift. Currently, adults lift the waka and do all the mahi in preparation for the tamariki. This new equipment will provide an opportunity for tamariki to take ownership of their own waka ama development.

Youth Projects Trust Manager, Martin Helleur, started the Tamariki Waka Ama programme in 2018, however it has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, 12 schools in the Rotorua district participated in the one day event and its planned return early next year has already garnered interest from more local schools.

The programme aims to increase the mental, social and physical wellbeing of local tamariki while creating a safe learning environment to build water confidence and life skills they can apply at home and at school.

Te Puku o Te Ika Outrigger Canoe Association will be the kaitiaki of the programme, delivering it in partnership with Rotorua Primary School.

Helleur says the programme focuses on bringing the community together after another year disrupted by COVID-19.

“The programme teaches resilience and will weave schools and the community together. It is hoped the whole whānau will be interested in waka ama and it will improve the mental health, wellbeing and social connections of our tamariki.”

Helleur says the ongoing summer programme will be delivered twice weekly per school, starting when the waka are ready, which is expected to be in Term One, next year.

There are about 15 schools interested and it is anticipated up to 500 additional tamariki will be able to participate with the additional equipment.

Helleur says without the funding from the Trust the programme wouldn’t have the same benefits.

“To teach more tamariki we needed more waka of the right size and the equipment to go with it  – we wouldn’t have been able to do this without funding.”

Rotorua Trust Chairman Stewart Edward says this initiative is well supported by the Trust because of the range of benefits the programme will deliver.

“It is hoped that the whole whānau will become involved in waka ama, promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for our local tamariki which will have positive flow on effects in all areas of life.”