Jaqi | Ahipara, Northland

“For me, kindness is when somebody does something that you weren’t expecting, or you were hoping for and it comes to you. I’m a believer. This is a belief thing, I suppose when you give out kindness you get it back in spades, and throughout this whole thing that we’ve been going through at the moment, I’m quite a social media person, and I’ve noticed people speak kind things, or say something that reminds people to be kind.

It was just something that I did when we were first going through the supermarket and I’d said, I just want to be thankful and grateful for those people that are giving up their time and putting their lives at risk. I put it out there, and there were all these likes about it, and people were saying, yes we’d forgotten that. And, I think we’ve seen kindness manifest itself all over the place. Even when a friend rings you on Zoom or Skype or on their phone, on Messenger. I’ve had people just phone me and say, how’s it going, how are you? And, for me, that’s kindness, for someone to take time out of their day, and that happens quite a lot. I don’t know if it’s a thing up here, I think I do it to other people. I think throughout these past two months, we’ve revisited kindness as a country, and we are seeing people say please and thank you, again and for me, that’s kindness. Showing somebody how to do something that they didn’t know. Social media’s been huge for that. People will say, I don’t know this, I didn’t understand that, am I reading this right? And some people will come back with negative comments of, oh gosh. But, nine times out of 10, it’s coming back with, this is what my interpretation is. People were sharing, and I think when you share your good stories, that’s kindness. You’re showing that you’re not afraid to put yourself out there, and that’s how kindness has been for me. 

I grew up as the eldest of five children who were born eight years apart. It was a pretty busy life growing up. We had nothing, so to speak. Born in the ‘60s so my parents were semi-hippies. We’ve had a lot of personal tragedy. I’ve lost a couple of sisters to various things, to suicide and drugs and stuff like that, but those things don’t define who I am. They’re just part of what makes me stronger, and what we’ve learned from it. I’ve raised seven children. I gave birth to two, and five of those children came from sisters and I’ve just had the privilege of helping them get to where they need to be in life. I think my husband had a lot to play in that part, as well. You can’t do this stuff on your own and for me that’s the big thing in my life, family and whānau, and my community. 

A little bit about me, I love rugby. I’ve loved watching all the re-plays. I’m active in my rugby community and running the bar, our family is a rugby family. I live in the most beautiful community of Ahipara, and have lived there for 25 years, raised all our children there. In Ahipara, it takes a village to raise a child. Everyone cares for each other. You get the odd ratbag, but that pales in comparison to the amount of love and support that you get when you live in a community for a long time. I didn’t do well at school. In these days I wouldn’t have gotten NCEA Level 1, but in the old system it was a bit different. I scraped through education, 14 schools. I think one of the things is I’ve had amazing parents who have said, life is an education, don’t let formal stuff get in the way of learning about things, and having books available all the time. I started life as a cook, and ran the White Lady in Kaitāia, which is a bit of a world famous thing in New Zealand, a pie cart. From there my dad said, I think you’re destined for working with people and being a social worker. I did that for about 20 years. But at one point in working as a social worker, I realised an education was the pathway and I switched out of that, and went and worked with families, helping them to engage in education, and I’ve been doing that for the last 15 years. So, half of my working life has been working to support people to get where they need to be from early childhood through to secondary, and now I’m working in the apprenticeship space with specialist trades, and supporting young people to realise their potential. I think I’ve just done that all my life. You find out what your calling is in life, and helping young people in particular reach their goals, find their goals is mine. So often in life people don’t have a goal. They can’t see that dream or they’re afraid to dream, because dreams can be dashed, but if we don’t dream then we can never put a plan in place to achieve that. So, I help young people see that and that makes me feel warm inside.

When I first realised the power of education was when I was working with a young family, and there were three children under five in the home, and they said, Jaqi, can you go and help that family, they’re not engaged in any early childhood, they’re not doing anything, and there’s a bit of drugs and a violence in there, and there was desperation. But when I went there, I had a talk to the mum, and I said, what are your dreams for your kids? And she says, I want them to learn te reo Māori, I want them to know who they are, I want to know when they go to kura or to school, and I want to learn te reo. And so, I said, okay that’s amazing, what’s stopping you? And she said, I can’t go in because you’ve got to go and do some parent-help thing. So I went up to my local kōhanga and I said, look there’s a mum, she’s not ready to come and do the parent-help role, she’s not ready to participate in the whānau activities, but she wants the best for her children. And, I took that plan, those aspirations and those dreams, and they said, we can help her. I said, can you pick up her kids, because she has no transport. They said, yes. I said, can you awhi her? And they said, she has to awhi us, too. So, I went back to her and I said, what can you do to awhi the kōhanga, what can you do to show kindness for them looking after your children, because that’s how Kōhanga Reo works. I said, I’ve come here and you’ve made a beautiful cake, could you make a cake each week?  In those days you could do that, before Health and Safety got in the way. So every week, she’d bake this cake. In the end, after about four months, they had a little role for her, which was to sit in the van and be a parent monitor. And I said, can you do that, can you stay straight, can you? I had to have an honest conversation about having a smoke, having a bong in the morning. But she says, yeah I can do that. So, she started doing that, and then they started inviting her in. The Kōhanga Reo showed the kindness that she needed. She needed that awhi and she needed someone to awhi her. The use of cannabis fell away, and they welcomed her. She actually became the best volunteer at that Kōhanga. Her children, I’ve met them over the years. They’re now in their teens. Some of them are now in apprenticeships and have gone onto university. So it started from someone saying, this is not our normal way of doing things, but we can see that you have a passion. And by setting that goal, we got to see that for her, it was amazing. I met her at a little outside concert, and I went, oh my gosh, these boys are now up to my height. And, I said, wow what happened?  And she says, “e kōrero ana ahau ki te reo Māori”, I can speak te reo Māori now, Jaqi. She said that came from when you came. She says, you opened the door. And I said, the kōhanga for me showed kindness, and that kindness manifested itself 20 years down the track. So, for me, we need to look at the person first, and then everything else. You never know what that seed of kindness will plant and manifest itself into the future. That’s what drives me, it’s where it all started, from me planting that seed of education.”

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