In a nod to Mahuru Māori, Healthy Families Rotorua farewelled National Strategic Communications Manager Heeni Brown with a hākari (feast), complete with kai foraged from the bush.
The Healthy Families Rotorua and Te Arawa Whānau Ora (TAWO) teams celebrated several events, including Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, Heeni’s departure, and new babies with a hangi and other delectable kai Māori.
Team manager Jenny Kaka-Scott says the office often celebrates special occasions with a catered spread or shared potluck, however, cake and sugary treats often dominate the table.
“Workplace wellbeing is significant in our organisation, and we’re currently focusing on kai Māori – gathering ourselves, learning how to harvest it safely, and how to prepare that kai,” says Jenny.
“We recently supported a kai wānanga at the marae. Part of our role is bringing experts together and strengthening local networks to ensure the growing number of whānau interested in kai Māori, have the knowledge, skills and mātauranga to grow, harvest and prepare safely.
“Our staff is starting to make a transformation in the kai we associate with celebrations. So, we decided instead of having cakes, we’d try as much as possible to harvest kai in our local community and bring that to share. Everyone has embraced it and there was a lot of enthusiasm leading up to the event,” she says.
True to the kaupapa, the hākari included Māori potato harvested by the team at the weekend through Kai Rotorua; our accountant brought tītī (muttonbird), which is a delicacy in Bluff where she was raised; TAWO CEO and paeārahi collected pikopiko and watercress at a ‘secret spot’; and of course, the kumara is featured, which is a revered kai for Te Arawa.
Amidst the excitement, we can’t forget the woman of the hour, Heeni Brown, and the massive contribution she has made to both Healthy Families Rotorua and Te Arawa Whānau Ora teams.
“Kai Māori for us is really special, and we associate that with Heeni. She’s been a core part of our team. Kai Māori is unique, Heeni is unique. She’s got a unique set of skills and is just a very loving personality.
“So, another aspect is you take your best kai and use that to show your aroha and manaaki. In this case, it’s to Heeni, and we wish her well,” says Jenny.