Tā Mark Solomon, Chair of the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency in the South Island has congratulated Whānau Ora enterprise Koha Kai who was honoured for their Lunches in Schools programme at the national Māori Women’s Business Awards (MWDI) in Rotorua last night.”
The awards recognise wāhine Māori who excel in business, innovation and collaboration. Janice Lee, (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou) Project Lead for Koha Kai, won the Te Waipounamu regional award against nominations from across the South Island. Koha Kai is a training and employment service, offering training for people with disabilities within a Te Ao Māori environment.
Janice says, “We teach vocational skills in the community, seeking to enrich the experience by benefitting children as a by-product of the work we do.”
Based in local schools and kura kaupapa, we grow kai with local kaumātua, sharing their mātauranga (knowledge), then we cook the kai, providing nutritional healthy, hearty lunches for the children”.
Our tangata whaikaha are among the most vulnerable, and they are also the highest users of social, medical and mental health services. Through the learning they do with us, they also acquire skills to support themselves, giving them independence and autonomy in their lives.”
Koha Kai provides the wider Invercargill community with services and in doing so they transform lives. Trainees are taken on a journey from primarily being receivers of social services to being providers of services that enhances their mana, builds natural relationships, and renews and strengthens existing whānau values. In a recent survey by the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency 72% of students who took part in the initiative have gained the skills and confidence to apply for a job or move onto study. The participants demonstrate in real terms, that they are able and capable of being responsible for their own journey through life.
Janice says, “Koha Kai is a ‘whanau first’ structure, offering a bottom-up delivery of service throughout our organisation. Our operational staff have worked throughout all levels of the organisation and understand our role is to ensure our teams are healthy, happy and feel supported. We all understand the specific needs of our trainees and volunteers, who are often challenged through disability and also poverty. Trainees are supported to eat well and be active and we role model expectations for Koha Kai whānau on all levels, to ensure consistency through our organisation.”
As Koha Kai has evolved, Janice said, “We simply focused on the four pillars of Māori health as explained by Ta Mason Durie, that wellness must be in balance. For Māori the physical dimension is just one aspect of health and well-being so cannot be separated from the aspect of mind, spirit and family. Koha Kai is te ao Māori – where the essence of the kaupapa, the wellness of whānau takes precedence over the financial contribution to provide the service.”
Tā Mark Solomon says, “Koha Kai has been on a remarkable journey since its inception as a Whānau Ora initiative back in 2016. They are creating social transformation within the disability sector through meaningful employment, leading to nationally recognised qualifications. Their ‘Lunches in Schools’ social impact initiative has enabled them to establish new business relationships, access pathways and infuse te reo rangatira throughout their work environment which is ultimately the outcome of a Whānau Ora investment approach.”
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