Although rongoā has always been part of Te Aroha Ngatai’s life, she once believed that she needed a qualification from a western institute to practice rongoā.
However, while studying natural health elsewhere, she always felt like something was missing. That something revealed itself when she began at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
“It was the wairua that was missing. I love the whānau vibe, I love the noho. For whānau like me who don’t often go back to the pā, we’re getting refreshed in the kaupapa, the tikanga. It helps me learn and grow.”
Te Aroha completed the Level 4 Certificate in Rongoā at Waiwhero campus in Rotorua, and this year, she chose to follow kaiako Sabre Puna to Napier. She now travels to Hawkes Bay once a month for the Level 5, noho-based Diploma in Rongoā.
As a busy parent with a large whānau, she found it hard making the decision to follow her kaiako, but is pleased she did, and says the programme has opened her mind to a whole new series of learning.
“I was excited to step onto a marae down there that I wouldn’t normally go to, and learn the tikanga there.”
While spending time in Hawkes Bay studying, Te Aroha saw first hand the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle. When the opportunity arose, she used her learnings to give back to a community in need.
“For me, it’s about serving others. When I discover things, I love to share. I see the potential in others, I want to help them. If I know something that is going to tautoko them, I’ll continue to do that.”
For Te Aroha, rongoā isn’t just about the physical aspect, the balms and poultices you can make within nature, but also how healing can be holistic.
Te Aroha’s own journey with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa has become about so much more than rongoā.
“It’s self discovery. Ko wai au is really important. Learning at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa has helped me pull back the layers, learning and connecting with my whakapapa.”
By connecting with nature and learning rongoā, Te Aroha has been able to gain a deeper understanding of herself and her place in the world, and expand on the legacy she is creating for her tamariki and mokopuna.