Te Hapori Ora POD puts whānau into fitness

Members of Te Hapori Ora – The Village of Wellbeing whānau are dancing in the dark and spinning poi to get fit and strengthen their commitment to the creation of safe spaces free of violence.

The Taupō based indigenous practitioners, and their ever-growing whānau of past and present clients, have turned a disused, rundown building on Council’s land on Spa Road into an indoor/outdoor fitness venue. It’s called the Poutama Oranga Destination or simply, Te Hapori Ora POD. 

Getting fit as a whānau

Those who turn up to the POD for early morning dance or SpinPoi classes, or to end their week with interval training or Pasifika-inspired kanikani and waiata classes, will tell you it’s fun to get fit as a whānau.

Some will even tell you that the sore muscles are getting a little less sore as the weeks go by.  

“We call it a ‘Wellbeing Activation Space’, and it’s dedicated to deepening relationships and cultivating meaningful connections within the wider community as well,” says Te Hapori Ora Kaituruki and CEO, Hakuwai Eriksen-Downs.

Hakuwai and his partner in business and in life, Te Hapori Ora Kaituruki Ora, Kimi Eriksen-Downs, are at the POD boogying, lifting weights and running the circuits with the rest of them.

“Gotta walk the talk,” says Kimi. “We can’t be a Village of Wellbeing if we aren’t well ourselves.”

“Health statistics for Māori aren’t great and our people are often uncomfortable talking about their health issues,” says Hakuwai. “Coming together to get fit and have fun while enjoying each other’s company can literally be a lifesaver.”

Te Hapori Ora POD spins with innovation

Te Hapori Ora is an innovative te ao Māori model of personal and community development. Like everything else in the kaupapa, the POD is a dynamic space, open to new people and new ideas to supplement the weekly programme of free classes.

These include circuit training with Savanna Martin-Koteka on Mana Manaaki Monday and kettlebell classes on Tikanga Tuesday with William Olds. Both are graduates of the Te Hapori Ora wānanga and remain an active part of the Village of Wellbeing whānau.

A group of Te Hapori Ora whānau recently learnt SpinPoi from health researcher, Dr Kate Riegle van West who developed the unique kaupapa Māori health routine. They’re now qualified to hold classes of their own.

After the training session, Dr Riegle van West praised Te Hapori Ora for bringing the voices of their community to the forefront by creating safe spaces and sharing authentic indigenous practice derived from the people they serve.

The weekends have been packed with whānau-focused activities throughout the summer. Recently, Te Hapori Ora whānau laced up their running shoes and joined the local Harriers club on a 5km run in preparation for two upcoming marathons. They also stood alongside a community initiative led by Josh Standen from the King Country Rugby Football Union showing solidarity for men’s mental health and wellbeing at the 2024 season kick-off. They also supported Tai Tupou from The Last Chance Project who delivered powerful kōrero about men’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Sharing our kaupapa and exposing our own whānau to activities and people they may not come across in their daily lives is all part of the POD kaupapa,” says Hakuwai.

Check out the wide range of kaupapa offered by Te Hapori Ora – Village of Wellbeing

Addressing violence through healing

For 35 years, Kimi has steadfastly supported whānau through her dedication to community and social work. Over the past 12 years, Hakuwai has joined her, and both are now committed to their roles as indigenous practitioners operating from a te ao Māori perspective within Tūwharetoa.

Together their partnership has enriched the lives of many, blending traditional wisdom with contemporary approaches to uplift communities. This has included developing a series of highly regarded wānanga for tāne (Tāne Ora), wāhine (Wa Hine Ora), and pākeke (Mātua Oranga) which focus on the prevention of violence and violation of any kind against whakapapa, regardless of background or ethnicity.

Hakuwai sees the POD as an extension of this mahi.

“We’ve been helping people heal by gaining a deep understanding of their actions, the emotions behind them and the environmental factors affecting their lives and their whānau,” he says. “The POD is an example of how we’re moving our community into environments where they can create wellbeing themselves. We’re working at the top of the cliff, not at the bottom.”

Kimi comes back to the fundamental philosophy behind all their mahi.

“We choose to look at our world and the challenges we all face through the eyes of wellbeing rather than ill health,” she says.

“Hurihia tō aroaro ki te rā, tukuna tō ātārangi kia taka ki muri i a koe.

Turn your face to the sun and the shadow will fall behind you.”

The Te Hapori Ora POD is open Monday to Friday, 10:00am to 6:30pm at the Venture Centre, 250 Spa Road, Tauhara, Taupō.

Te Hapori Ora POD hosts community events and is supported by E Tū Whānau.

Want more?

Learn more about how Te Hāpori Ora is free of violence of any kind.

Watch this short video about Te Hapori Ora – Village of Wellbeing.

Read how Manaia Cuthbert reconnects with taha Māori, and heals.