Tuhirau gets kids to put pen to paper in te reo

By Ruth Smith

In a world of instant connection and social media, one 9-year-old girl is reverting back to a time where excitement came in the form of a hand-written letter from a pen-pal.  Te Kahurangi Teinakore-Huaki of Tainui is putting pen to paper and is encouraging other kids to share the experience with her through her initiative, Tuhirau.

Teinakore-Huaki,  who has been raised speaking te reo Māori shares how she and her mother, Tiare Teinakore, came up with the idea one day when she asked if her mum knew any children she could write to in Māori.

“This idea came because I like to write.  I asked my mum one day if she could find me a pen pal and so she went on her Facebook page and posted.  There were heaps of parents who said their children could write,” said Te Kahurangi.

Tiare's post received a lot of attention which resulted in her creating the Tuhirau Facebook page, where she administrates and co-ordinates the project for those who subscribe.  

There are almost 240 members to the Tuhirau Facebook page with approximately 105 children split into 'tira tuhi' (writing groups) who take part in the initiative.   

Teinakore says that schools have also contacted her to join into the initiative, proving that there is a huge interest for children to develop their writing skills outside of school.

Teinakore-Huaki is a student at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Ara Rima.  Her home environment is also fully immersed and as a result she and her younger sister Tangiata converse comfortably in te reo. 

Teinakore-Huaki is very clear on the kaupapa underpinning her Tuhirau initiative.

“I think it is a good way for kids to share their ideas and also to [learn] what our ancestors did,” she explains.

Teinakore-Huaki 's sister is also involved in the initiative and explains that she prefers handwriting rather than using technology.

“I love to write because I’ve been doing it since I was little."

The girls write their letters at home in their spare time alongside their mum, who looks over the letters and helps them with spelling and structuring.  The girls have sent and received many messages with their pen pals from across the country.

“Some of the topics we talk about are our favourite subjects in school, favourite sports, some of the things we do with our whānau and those sorts of things,” says Teinakore-Huaki.

She explains that one of the most important aspects of her initiative is the ability to network through writing.

“You get to know people, not by meeting them but through writing.”