As a development worker for One Double Five Community House in Whangārei, Makoare Hoterene is passionate about education and building relationships to empower people.
The 23-year-old, who is currently studying Manaaki Tāngata - Certificate in Bicultural Social Services at Ngā Mahinga Campus in Whangārei, says the key to his role is to listen to the needs of those in his home suburb of Otangarei, and then implement and manage projects to meet them.
"Otangarei doesn't have a good name out in the wider region of Whangārei, so this is an opportunity to showcase some of the wonderful projects we've worked on and give some positive aspects," he says.
From lawn mowing and communal gardens to whaikorero workshops and cups of tea, it's about supporting families to grow and develop, despite constant issues around lack of resources, funding and information, Makoare says.
"What attracted me to the role was that I'm a resident of this community, but I had little knowledge of the types of support and awhi our whānau could access."
Connecting with youth has also been a struggle he says.
"It's been hard. A large number have left school early - some at the age of 11 - and are not enrolled in any form of education."
As well as working for One Double Five, Makoare is deputy chair of Te Puawaitanga Marae, which is trialing correspondence courses as a way to re-engage youth with education and to provide literacy programmes for adult learners.
This initiative is close to Makoare's heart.
He graduated last year with a Diploma in Adult Education from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and says a lot of his learning comes in handy.
"It helps me create safe, caring and positive spaces for teaching and planning strategies and appropriate content."
"What I got (from the diploma) was the ability to go away and design programmes appropriate to our learners and to our people within our community. The deeper we went into exploring ngā takepū and developing our ability to become kaiako, the more assured I was that this was a path I wanted to pursue. I'm passionate about educating, developing and uplifting our people."
Makoare also acknowledges his current social services kaiako, Rose Leonard, for providing a learning environment at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa of safety, equality and peace.
"Whaea Rose allows us to open up and give our views and validates them by using current examples or previous experiences. The road hasn't been smooth, but we've managed to overcome obstacles, explore the unknown and resort back to the warmth we know," he says.
Although combining all his roles hasn't been easy, his efforts haven't gone unrecognised.
In July, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector Alfred Ngaro praised Makoare for taking the lead in his rohe with projects that stimulated successful collaboration between community organisations and businesses.
"To see the outcomes that our whanau and social workers are able to achieve has been inspiring and motivating," Makoare says.
"It's been a great journey so far."