After a successful engineering career Hari Rakena-Roberts was looking for a change which would bring more benefits to his community, and having that community thrust into the national spotlight gave him the final push he needed.
“Being from Ihumātao, that time brought about change for me,” he says.
“I wanted to do something for the community, to give back to my whānau, back to my iwi and my community. I came to a point last year where there was a need to give back, to pass my knowledge and skills on to our next generation.”
In doing so, Hari is fulfilling the wishes of his tūpuna.
“Being raised in and around the pā environment with my grandparents, this is what they wanted for us, to go out there and experience the world and come back to the land once you’re ready, come home and help the whānau out.”
He wants to work with rangatahi in his community so enrolled in the Level 4 Certificate in Bicultural Social Services Manaaki Tangata programme at the Māngere campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and says the course has given him the skills to do that.
“The programme resonated with me because I’ve been through a lot of the same situations that these kids have been through and having that knowledge and those experiences, they’re tools for helping. I enjoyed every part of the course. It’s been an awesome journey, I’ve made a lot of new friends and being a bicultural programme, we’ve engaged with other minorities. That was interesting and good for me to be able to sit with all these different ethnicities and understand part of their culture.”
He says it has also helped him develop personally.
“Being the only Māori and only male on the course, I got a lot of responsibilities pushed my way and I accepted them, otherwise I wasn’t challenging myself,” he says.
“In a way, it was for me to understand that it was my rightful place to stand, being mana whenua. That was encouraged by my tutor, so I take my hat off to her for encouraging me to step into that role.
“I was always one of those shy, quiet types but through the programme, I’m a bit more confident in myself. Over the year I’ve grown and all my fellow tauira, they’ve heped me along the way. Without their encouragement, and our tutors, it may have been a different year for me.”
He says the course is ideal for anyone who wants to help other people.
“If you’re looking for something with a bit more purpose, a bit more meaningful, come join our course, it will change your life, it will change your world and it will change the way you look at things.
“For me, the timing was right, the learning was above what I had expected and I take my hat off to our tutor, she really drove us to make sure we understood every kaupapa and had a clear idea of what was expected. Now it’s time to put it into practice.”