Ngarangi Toko has been no stranger to struggle street in the past but the challenges she’s faced help inspire her today to support others.
The solo mother of three teenagers has found study and employment at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Whakatāne a big part of helping meet those challenges and providing tautoko (support) to others.
For example, 41-year-old Ngarangi, who has lost nearly 20 kilograms this year, is currently doing a sports and fitness course as she has a passion for helping others with their physical conditioning, “especially women who come from toxic relationships and have body image and self-worth issues”.
Ngarangi, a proud Ngāi Tūhoe who grew up and lives in the small Bay of Plenty settlement of Waimana, knows personally about those issues.
She had worked alongside her dairy farmer partner before their relationship ended in 2010. Since then, she has raised her children as a solo mum.
After the break up, she later worked for a trust in Waimana running school holiday programmes but that ended.
So in 2013 she started a Certificate in Small Business course at the Wānanga with the aim of establishing a new charitable trust to run a holiday programme.
“I knew the business study would eventually come out as a business plan for a new trust.”
The Awhi Consulting Trust was subsequently established in Waimana and up to seven people were employed.
Ngarangi carried on with Wānanga studies that supported her involvement with the new trust, including computing, money management and te reo.
Unfortunately the trust had to suspend operations after key staff left in 2017.
Two years ago Ngarangi started doing casual administration work for the Wānanga in Whakatāne and is carrying on with that as she does her sports and fitness studies.
“I have really enjoyed the atmosphere at the Wānanga over the years, the knowledge and patience of the kaiako (teachers).
“I have been able to pick up skills that have helped me in my trust work and my work in fitness.”
Ngarangi pays tribute to her community and whānau who have helped her raise her tamariki.
"It takes a community to raise a child. I have been lucky and privileged enough to come from such tight knit whānau surroundings. It has been my whānau who have been on duty caring for my brood whilst I can study.”