A passion to help protect tamariki from abuse and to see people change for the better underpins Renee Kingi’s drive to lend a helping hand as a social worker.
The Rotorua-based 39-year-old (who affiliates to Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Tainui and Ngā Puhi) has recently completed a Bachelor in Bicultural Social Work degree following four years of study at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa’s Waiwhero campus.
Renee says she started the course after ten years focusing on being a mother as she wanted to follow her strong desire to help others.
“Helping prevent and deal with the effects of child abuse is my driving force and I have a passion for our people to see a change for the better.
“I felt it was time for me to do something instead of always saying something.”
She’s now working with homeless people in Tauranga and is setting up a transitional homeless shelter in Rotorua called Papatūānuku Support Services.
Studying at TWoA has equipped her well for what she’s doing, Renee says.
“I have learned Ngā Takepu principles that are informed by a Māori world view and Māori practice. These guide me when working with whānau.
“The support that I got – and continue to get – from my kaiako (teachers) has enabled me to set up the charitable trust that underpins Papatūānuku Support Services.”
Besides providing āhurutanga (warmth and comfort) for whānau who are homeless, Renee is also keen for her work to be a model for her tamariki “to show them the way through my actions”.
Along with her degree programme, TWoA has assisted Renee to better connect to her Māori identity.
“I was bought up in Invercargill as a Jehovah’s Witness. I knew nothing of my culture and stepped on a marae for the first time when I was 30 years old.
“I needed somewhere to reconnect to my culture and TWoA was it for me. I now know the tikanga and kawa, my whakapapa and Ngā Takepu.
“I left with an overflowing kete and was a different person. I knew who I was, what I wanted and the direction I was going to go in.
“I am grateful, strong, driven and supported because I decided to study at the Wānanga. As well as doing my social work, I’m now planning to develop my te reo Māori further.”