Recently, Bounce set out to explore what it means to "know yourself" - one of their five well-being tips for young people - by building cultural appreciation and learning more about Aotearoa's Māori heritage.

Bounce is New Zealand Red Cross’ youth-led wellbeing project based in Ōtautahi (Christchurch), made up of a team of volunteers aged between 12 and 24 years old. These young leaders decided in order to engage young Kiwis and properly honour tangata whenua, it was important to first look inward at the knowledge and beliefs they already held about biculturalism.

From there, it was a clear choice to stay overnight at a marae and spend two full days immersed in Māori culture.

Tane Keepa, an experienced youth worker in the community, offered to guide the group in their journey. In the weeks leading up the marae stay, Tane led conversations with the group to help everyone understand the pōwhiri, rehearse a waiata, and practice mihis.

On the morning of their stay, the Bounce team and invited youth organisations were welcomed onto Rehua Marae and into the wharenui, where they were humbled by the Māori knowledge and history that surrounded them. Many of the young people experienced their first time participating in a pōwhiri. Once the speeches and songs were concluded, everyone was invited to hongi with the tangata whenua and then share their mihis in Te Reo Māori, with smiles going across the room when common descent lines were discovered.

“It is so important for us to respect our roots, especially the culture, heritage, and wealth of knowledge our indigenous people hold,” Bounce volunteer Eleanor Hurton explained. “We are a diverse nation, with similar and differing opinions and beliefs, but it is crucial for us to understand our history and background and to honour the Māori people and everything they have done to enrich our nation.”

Bounce/NZ Red Cross

The group also participated in a flax weaving workshop, a visit of culturally significant landmarks in Ōtautahi, and conversations about the cultural importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Bounce’s stay at Rehua Marae was the first step on a journey to explore youth wellbeing through culturally inclusive practices. For the young leaders who attended the marae, the experience also allowed them to consider how to encourage their friends, peers and parents to embrace Māori culture as part of their identities.

The learning that took place brought to life a meaningful whakataukī: Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi. With your basket and my basket, the people will live. Through cooperation and mutual understanding, young humanitarians can get to know themselves, empower others and encourage wellbeing through cultural awareness.

Read Eleanor Hurton's full blog post about her experience staying on the marae