Kemara –embracing his heritage

To have pride in ourselves and a sense of identity is something we all strive for, and for many, it is hard to achieve. However, this vision is becoming a reality for Kemara – since he started planning his future with Interactionz mentors last year, he has been able to achieve levels of independence and self-worth than he could not have dreamed of only months ago.

Much of this monumental change within Kemara’s life can be attributed to Interactionz’ philosophy of empowering the people they mentor. Their aim is to give their customers the ability to run their own lives, through helping them acquire the skills and confidence to do so and connecting them with everyday people in their communities.

The huge changes in Kem’s life started when, with the guidance of his Interactionz mentors, he completed a PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope). PATH is a planning tool, which uses visual mapping and drawings, to help people visualise and achieve their dreams. Through this process, Kemara, his whanau and his mentors were able to identify areas of particular interest for Kem. They established goals and planned steps that would bring them to fruition. In Kem’s case, these centred on embracing his Maori heritage, his love of art and gardening.

Having identified Kem’s interest in both his ancestry and art, his Interactionz mentors brought these two together, and he was introduced to making Korowai at a community class. Kemara made his own version of a Korowai and named it after his father’s Kapa Haka group. His passion was sparked, and now one of his goals is to make a Korowai to represent his family/whanau.

To make this happen, Kem’s Interactionz mentor Bernie assisted him to apply for a Sir Logan Campbell Trust Scholarship. This helped pay for a full year of Korowai sessions at Rauwaawa Kaumatua Charitable Trust. In February 2016, Kem and Bernie attended their first Korowai class and were shown the process of casting the material on and off. It was a challenging and technical process to learn, but with encouragement from Kem’s peers and tutor and Bernie, Kem completed the beginning of the Korowai. Kemara was very happy with what he achieved during this day and thoroughly enjoyed being among people who share his love for his Maori culture.

Kem lives with his whanau in Ngaruawahia. They are very happy that Kemara has found a passion for Korowai, and that with Bernie’s assistance, he has been able to satisfy this desire to learn, and to enrich his life by building relationships with others on the course.

Making Korowai is not the only area in which Kemara is making the most of opportunities to grow into his identity as a man of mana. Through Interactionz research and assistance, he gained a scholarship to enable his attendance at the Arts to Health program. Here he worked on art projects of his choice, and enjoyed the support and social side of working with other artists and their mentors/teachers. Some of his pieces of art were exhibited and sold in a Hamilton gallery. You can imagine that he enjoyed an enormous sense of accomplishment at this.

However, this is only one part of his PATH that Kemara, together with his Interactionz mentors and his family, has achieved.  Kem also has a love of gardening so Interactionz connected him with Career Moves Services, who supported him in finding work in this area. During this process, ongoing support from mentors is also given to develop any additional skills required for the type of role chosen. Kemara has now held caretaker/groundsman roles within different community organisations, including two schools and a hotel. He is currently volunteering at Waimarie Community House, where he helps to look after the gardens.

For all of us confidence in ourselves goes hand in hand with a sense of independence. Being involved in these activities all around the community has also given Kemara an opportunity to focus on another area that has been a challenge – getting himself around. Kem has limited reading and writing skills and this has previously made independent travel a difficult. However, his Interactionz mentors recognised that he has a very good memory and have supported him to recognise the bus numbers and the correct bus stops for entering and exiting the bus. This has given him a huge confidence boost and means that he does not have to rely on others to accompany him around.

Kemara’s achievements through artwork, gardening and transportation, have provided him with opportunities to pursue things that give him a sense of fulfilment and to develop new skills. Through his art he has been able to express pride in his whanau and culture by completing a Korowai, which gives him a sense of place and pride within his community and culture. Volunteering his gardening skills has meant that he can be proud to have a valued role in the community, and a sense of fulfilment, plus benefit from the physical activity and enjoyment of being outside. Interacting with people within his local community gives him an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with others who share similar interests and passions, and contributes to a feeling of belonging. And of course to be able to be independent means that he can have pride in knowing he does not have to rely on others to get him around.

All of these elements tell a story of a man, Kemara, who with the support of his family and his Interactionz mentors, has embraced the opportunity to follow his dreams. Who knows where they might lead him next.

An update on Kemara’s story:
Since this story was first written, Kemara has made even more gains in his personal journey. Due to his increased independence and confidence, Bernie was transitioned from paid support to accompany Kem to art class, to a volunteer. Unfortunately, the volunteer had to leave unexpectedly.  However, when Bernie discussed finding another volunteer to accompany Kem, the art tutor assured him that Kem no longer needed one.  Now Kem successfully attends the class on his own.

So the transition was made from paid support, to volunteer support, to natural supports in the setting. That is; Kem is now doing an everyday thing, in an everyday place with everyday people, at an everyday time. This transition took only took him a few months – amazing considering he had been in a hub based service for over two decades. With the help of Interactionz’s mentoring, Kem really has become his own man – and the journey is not over.