To celebrate National Volunteer Week and Matariki, Student Volunteer Army President Sophie Clarke headed along to Mara Kai workshop on Tūrei morning. Sophie shared what she learned from the workshop
What did you do?
We met in Te Whare Ākonga o Te Akatoki for karakia and kōrero. The kōrero shed some light on the meaning of Matariki and how it connects to community gardens and harvesting. Outside at the whare’s māra kai (community garden), we learnt each veggie’s name in te reo māori. We harvested ripe plants to be split between all the volunteers. I harvested some kōhi (silverbeet), pāhiri (parsley), korare (silverbeet), and pohara (kale). We built our knowledge of these names by painting them on old plates to place in the garden.
What did you learn?
During the kōrero, we learnt about Matariki and the star Tupuānuku:
- How the cluster appears in the sky determines the bounty of the coming season (related to harvesting, the flowering of plants, fish spawning, and natural environmental cycles). It is a time to remember the dead, plan for the future, and celebrate with whānau.
- Matariki celebrations involve cooking food from the earth, forests, rivers, and oceans. The oven is uncovered and the steam rises into the sky to feed Matariki.This is a way of acknowledging our ancestors and the coming year.
- The star Tupuānuku is related to things that come from the earth. Māra kai (gardening) is one part of this. Being the start of winter, the time around Matariki is good for assessing crops to be planted or harvested from community gardens. Rituals are conducted to ensure that the year will progress well; karakia, wānanga, reflection, discussion and planning.
We learnt how to apply matariki teachings to our own māra:
- Share some of our winter harvest with our friends and whānau
- Citrus is ripening around this time. These can be shared with our friends or made into curd.
- Make a new patch of garden so it is ready to dig and plant in spring.
- Add a new fruit tree to our gardens.
Why did you go?
The SVA have always enjoyed doing community garden projects, both at Waiutuutu (UC community gardens) and those in the red zone. However, this project was different. It has helped me view gardening from a new perspective. Combining the kōrero with the harvesting lets us see how our usual mahi fits into the holistic view of Matariki as we acknowledge this time of celebration.
Who else attended?
There was a mix of people attending the workshop. People from Te Akatoki, UC sustainability, and the SVA were there, alongside some passionate community gardeners and other new faces. It was cool to have this mix of people in one space; all with interest in sustainability and community from slightly different perspectives. This presented some meaningful conversations and the potential for future mahi together to further understanding.
Why do you volunteer?
I love the sense of community volunteering creates. People from different walks of life work together towards a common goal. It inspires important conversations while making positive change for the community.
Why is Matariki important to celebrate?
Matariki celebrations engage a holistic view of life and seasonal activities. It emphasizes the connection between all parts of life, including health and wellbeing, those passed, our environment, food sources, and our hopes and aspirations. In such a fast paced society it is easy to get overwhelmed and it is hard to find our place in the world. By celebrating Mātariki we can pause to reflect on all parts of life. It helps us live more in tune with our surroundings, reflect on what the past means for us, and make strong plans for the future, all while connected in our community.
Why is it important to celebrate National Volunteer Week?
National volunteer week is another opportunity for reflection. It celebrates those who have put time in to build their community and the environment. The world couldn’t run without volunteers. Many important parts of society are run by them, from caregiving, running clubs, emergency services, and social work, to conservation efforts. They keep communities strong and improve the lives of others. It’s cool that it has fallen on the same week as Matariki, as community wellbeing is one aspect of life we can pause to reflect on. This week acknowledges the mahi that has been done in the past year and encourages new volunteers to grow their community in the coming year; whatever form that may take.
What does volunteering mean to you?
Volunteering is the chance to make meaningful change in my community. With enough people striving towards a common goal, so much can be achieved. I am able to see issues I believe need action on and collaborate to make changes a reality. This Māra Kai workshop has been an example of this, enabling others to discover a part of their national identity and share their knowledge. Volunteering, to me, means putting time into creating a better world for future generations, so all may have the opportunity to do the same.