By Hayley Gastmeier
Chopper is back in the community and aiming to strengthen the mana of South Wairarapa children.
After hanging up his hat from a 17-year career in the police force last year, Nathan Riwai-Couch is introducing a resilience programme to Featherston School.
The father of three, affectionately known in Wairarapa as Chopper, was welcomed to the school by a powhiri yesterday, along with his Ka Rewa team.
Ka Rewa — Take Flight — is the programme which will kick off next week with the school’s older pupils — year-7s and year-8s.
The course was designed by Te Hauora, a Maori health service provider based in Masterton, where Mr Riwai-Couch now works, after standing down as the region’s police iwi liaison officer and as a senior constable last July.
Mr Riwai-Couch said he was loving his new role with Te Hauora and doing a course such as Ka Rewa with kids had been on his wishlist for some time.
“It’s Tikanga-based so the children will learn karakia, waiata, they’ll learn their pepeha, so they can say where they’re from and who they represent.”
As well as this, those in the course will be taught resilience, so “strategies to cope with bullying and situations they may find themselves in” – such as “being peer pressured to shoplift or take something from a neighbour or from school”.
There would also be a strong component where children could connect with their community, Mr Riwai-Couch said.
“We’ll go down to Lake Wairarapa and clean up rubbish while hearing historic stories about the place.”
The year-long programme would encourage “strengthening children’s spiritual side”.
The Ka Rewa team, which also comprises kaumatua Ben Fox, his grandson Whatahoro Fox, Kendyl Walker and AJ Aporo, will be at the school every Thursday afternoon.
“The first term we’ll be doing maara kai work, making vegetable gardens.”
By the end of 2017 the school, numbering 78 students, would have their very own Featherston haka.
And a tuakana-teina buddy system would ensure all pupils picked it up, as well as the school’s own waiata which was already in the making.
Mr Riwai-Couch said he would like to see the programme, which has been at Lakeview School for four years, taken wider.
“As much as I hope you will learn from us, we will be learning from you,” he told the students, who broke out in laughter when he told them he loved “shared lunches”, encouraging them to come to school stocked up.
Pupil’s family members are welcome to attend the Thursday afternoon Ka Rewa sessions.