Deidre Otene has a dream for the young people of Kaikohe. Her mahi (work) focuses on helping them into jobs, education and training, making positive changes so their whānau and generations to come have a brighter future.

What is the kaupapa (purpose) of your mahi here in Kaikohe?

Our overall kaupapa is around accelerating and building our young people’s capability through training, education, employment and business. We are building a training and innovation hub that will enable us to deliver education in new ways, creating business and employment opportunities in Kaikohe.

We’ve recently purchased land in Guys Road. It’s a significant site because it’s right at the entry into the township, and also because it’s a return of our land, our whenua, to allow us to build the capacity of our people.

How will the hub work?

We are doing things differently. We’re talking about innovation, not just in the technological sense, but changing the social make-up of our communities to create positive outcomes, and with that will come economic outcomes and return on investment.

What are some of the practical things you will be doing on the land?

It’s not just about jobs, but it’s about how meaningful they are for our people. We are working on the restoration of our waterways through riparian planting and growing more native trees. There is a native tree here, kohekohe, that has massive significance to us and it’s now hard to find. So our intention is that we will grow kohekohe in our propagation house.

What’s the hope for the taitamariki you work alongside?

My biggest hope is that they create opportunities for themselves. Our people have become dependent on handouts. I want to be part of changing that, providing a hand up so they can create hope and opportunities for themselves in terms of business, education, employment and the sustainability of our whenua.

What life changes have you seen in your young people?

Intergenerational changes. Some of the taitamariki we have the privilege of working with come from generations of trauma and association with drugs, alcohol and unemployment. I understand how hard it is to make change, and how courageous you have to be to step outside of that cycle.

Eighteen months on, where are you at?

It’s still early days and there’s a lot of work to be done. We’re just starting to build the foundation. We know it is possible to make change and we have seen it already. This is not a one-off programme; it is going to change lives for generations. Hopefully, beyond me, this mahi continues.

  • TTF’s donation contributes to the community learning, employment and business hub. The hub’s collaborative approach will provide an innovative co-working space for secondary students, NZQA-accredited training programmes, a community gym, health services and a youth centre.

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