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Housie for hīkoi

Wairarapa kaumātua are celebrating more than 30 years of Housie fundraising to support elder welfare and wellbeing – with Housie numbers still being called in Masterton every Saturday.

A dedicated group of volunteers, patrons and supporters has been the backbone of hīkoi [journeys], designed to provide social opportunities for kaumātua.

In the 1970s-80s, Wairarapa kaumātua garnered support for an entity to provide “a future haven for local kaumātua and their whānau”.

Basic aims were to engage with local government, police, marae, whānau, hapū and iwi to address issues such as health, education, and justice, Wairarapa Kaumātua Charitable Trust patroness, Mere Kerehi QSM, told Midweek.

“I have always believed that our kaumātua, in their twilight years, should be considered valued members of our society, socially and actively – engaged in counselling and whānau support initiatives, attending hui, gatherings, getting out and enjoying themselves, not just staying at home all the time.”

The former Wairarapa Kaumātua Council became an incorporated society in 1990, headed by Jim Rimene, Sam Ferris and Mere Kerehi.

“One of the major activities engaged in was Housie [Bingo] fundraising – once a week whānau would play at various venues and enjoy each other’s company,” Mere said.

One of the venues was Hiona Clubrooms [now Lone Star] in Dixon Street. The old Housie method involved a caller using a wooden box and numbers, with single Housie cards and button counters. There was no microphone and the caller had to shout the numbers out loud – if you missed, ‘bad luck’.

Housie patron and supporter for 30 years, Marie Devonshire recalled the days when Housie numbers had names such as: Two Fat Ladies (88), 10 Downing St (10), Legs Eleven (11) and Two Little Ducks (22).

The Housie group eventually earned sufficient funds and in 1993 upgraded to an automated Housie Powercall System from Ranfords Bingo and Fundraising Supplies Ltd.

In 2003, the council gained status as the Wairarapa Kaumātua Charitable Trust.

The late Pani Himona, events organiser and treasurer, began organising hīkoi to marae in the North and South Islands and other destinations.

Pani set up a kitchen roster of volunteers at the Housie and his wife June Himona recalled how important kitchen duty was: “Whānau would bring a plate and food would be donated to be sold to boost income,” she said.

Overseas hīkoi have included Rarotonga in 2008 and a cruise to Vanuatu in 2009.

“There was entertainment on the plane to Rarotonga,” said current trust chairperson Rewa Walker, who is known for baking traditional rēwena bread to raffle at Housie.

“The trip was a real eye-opener, to see the way people live – they are so laid back,” Rewa said.

Housie patron numbers have fluctuated over the years, partly due to indoor smoking regulations and covid-19. During covid-19 lockdowns, patrons had “withdrawal symptoms” from being unable to leave their homes to play Housie, Mere said.

Both Wairarapa iwi authorities, Māori service providers and the wider health and support sector looked after kaumātua, with food/hygiene parcels and testing kits delivered to homes.

“When vaccinations became available, we organised a bus for our kaumātua to receive some of the first vaccinations up at the hospital.”

Over the years, local celebratory events have included two banquets to honour kaumātua aged over 80 – the first banquet included guest artist, the late Sir Howard Morrison. Regular Christmas barbeques and luncheons are still part of the fundraising landscape.

Recent hīkoi this year have included a Kaumātua Ball in Heretaunga and a day trip to Dannevirke.

“We sang up large with our hosts at karaoke in Dannevirke,” Marie Devonshire said.

The Housie group continues to be supported by some original patrons and volunteers, including a kuia in her 80s from Woodville.

“There is a lot of fun back-chat from patrons – for example, if someone wins, another may call out ‘go home’,” Mere said.

Mere continues to support the Housie fundraising, with organiser Tania Heitia and her dedicated team of whānau and volunteers.

Trust secretary and assistant treasurer, Maria Hampstead-Rimene, said the trust acknowledged the “time, energy, commitment and dedication required to organise, manage and maintain the relationships and accountabilities with patrons, service providers, whānau volunteers and kaumātua on a weekly basis, over many years”.

“The relationship with Ranfords continues today after three decades and the members and whānau volunteers are thankful and appreciative of the continued service and back-up support provided by the staff of Ranfords – ngā mihi mo to manaakitanga mai.”

Housie is at Senior Citizens Hall, 12 Cole Street, Masterton, 1pm every Saturday. The old Housie method involved a caller using a wooden box and numbers, with single Housie cards and button counters. There was no microphone and the caller had to shout the numbers out loud – if you missed, ‘bad luck’.

Housie patron and supporter for 30 years, Marie Devonshire recalled the days when Housie numbers had names such as: Two Fat Ladies (88), 10 Downing St (10), Legs Eleven (11) and Two Little Ducks (22).

The Housie group eventually earned sufficient funds and in 1993 upgraded to an automated Housie Powercall System from Ranfords Bingo and Fundraising Supplies Ltd.

In 2003, the council gained status as the Wairarapa Kaumātua Charitable Trust.

The late Pani Himona, events organiser and treasurer, began organising hīkoi to marae in the North and South Islands and other destinations.

Pani set up a kitchen roster of volunteers at the Housie and his wife June Himona recalled how important kitchen duty was: “Whānau would bring a plate and food would be donated to be sold to boost income,” she said.

Overseas hīkoi have included Rarotonga in 2008 and a cruise to Vanuatu in 2009.

“There was entertainment on the plane to Rarotonga,” said current trust chairperson Rewa Walker, who is known for baking traditional rēwena bread to raffle at Housie.

“The trip was a real eye-opener, to see the way people live – they are so laid back,” Rewa said.

Housie patron numbers have fluctuated over the years, partly due to indoor smoking regulations and covid-19. During covid-19 lockdowns, patrons had “withdrawal symptoms” from being unable to leave their homes to play Housie, Mere said.

Both Wairarapa iwi authorities, Māori service providers and the wider health and support sector looked after kaumātua, with food/hygiene parcels and testing kits delivered to homes.

“When vaccinations became available, we organised a bus for our kaumātua to receive some of the first vaccinations up at the hospital.”

Over the years, local celebratory events have included two banquets to honour kaumātua aged over 80 – the first banquet included guest artist, the late Sir Howard Morrison. Regular Christmas barbeques and luncheons are still part of the fundraising landscape.

Recent hīkoi this year have included a Kaumātua Ball in Heretaunga and a day trip to Dannevirke.

“We sang up large with our hosts at karaoke in Dannevirke,” Marie Devonshire said.

The Housie group continues to be supported by some original patrons and volunteers, including a kuia in her 80s from Woodville.

“There is a lot of fun back-chat from patrons – for example, if someone wins, another may call out ‘go home’,” Mere said.

Mere continues to support the Housie fundraising, with organiser Tania Heitia and her dedicated team of whānau and volunteers.

Trust secretary and assistant treasurer, Maria Hampstead-Rimene, said the trust acknowledged the “time, energy, commitment and dedication required to organise, manage and maintain the relationships and accountabilities with patrons, service providers, whānau volunteers and kaumātua on a weekly basis, over many years”.

“The relationship with Ranfords continues today after three decades and the members and whānau volunteers are thankful and appreciative of the continued service and back-up support provided by the staff of Ranfords – ngā mihi mo to manaakitanga mai.”

Housie is at Senior Citizens Hall, 12 Cole Street, Masterton, 1pm every Saturday.

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