Estella Davis and her husband Te Haupai founded the programme in response to youth suicide rates in Aotearoa.
“We wanted to provide a safe space for whānau to navigate te ao Māori and reconnect. When you belong, you build resilience,” said Estella.
In 2019, both Estella and Te Haupai started Bachelor of Counselling(external link) degrees at NMIT—with Estella due to finish her degree soon after taking a year off to give birth to a little girl.
“I wish everyone did the first year of counselling,” said Estella, “There was definitely a huge lightbulb moment for me and that’s when I noticed a transformational change within myself.”
Estella is grateful for the support she and Te Haupai have received from the NMIT team, especially during the developmental stages of their kaupapa.
“It has been a bit tricky navigating study as an autistic, ADHD, Māori student whose first language is not English,” she said, “but I have made some amazing friendships through my studies, who have had my back and helped me to accomplish what I have.”
Soon Estella walks away with her degree and the experience of studying alongside her husband.
“A lot of people told us that it wasn’t wise, but it has actually been the coolest experience ever. I am super excited to walk across the graduation stage with my darling,” Estella said.
Kapa Haumanu(external link) currently has about 500 tamariki and rangatahi participating through several schools in the region.
Thanks to several scholarships and funding opportunities from NMIT, Ministry of Health – Hauora Māori and local businesses, Estella and Te Haupai can continue their mahi as counsellors in an authentic and engaging way through Kapa Haka.
“It helps to have people in your corner to push you to achieve your dreams and aspirations.”