Mana-enhancing Māra kai: Students make planters for residents of Kainga Ora

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Flower boxes made with care and pride.  COL instructor Anton Williams, left, Michael Hoffman, Flynn Russell, Roy Fonoti, Darius Livai, Lincoln Allen-Jury, Connor Lines and Dante Tanoa-Makiangareu.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Flower boxes made with care and pride. COL instructor Anton Williams, left, Michael Hoffman, Flynn Russell, Roy Fonoti, Darius Livai, Lincoln Allen-Jury, Connor Lines and Dante Tanoa-Makiangareu.

Inspiration, encouragement and heart help students complete their qualifications while gardening gifts for public housing tenants.

Manawatū high school students who earn building and construction certificates through UCOL produce planters for residents of Kainga Ora as part of a community partnership project.

“It’s the whole community working together,” said Dave Mollard of the Manawatū Food Action Network who worked with UCOL and Kainga Ora, as well as Awapuni Burseries who supplied the plants.

Students follow a model designed by tutor Anton William, who said the project gave students an additional opportunity to develop their skills.

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“It’s a good path for them…it will help them in their work.

“Get planters throughout the community. It’s the kaupapa [purpose]that’s the goal, and it’s done by our students.

Made from untreated pine, the boxes have a life cycle of three to five years, with screws that rust to prevent long-term waste.

The new project will involve the handover of 50 planters to whānau, with the first being delivered this week.

Kainga Ora residents who had expressed interest would receive a planter complete with compost, made by UCOL and delivered by the Manawatū Food Action Network.

The inhabitants would take full ownership of it, choosing what they would like to plant there.

Growing your own food increased mana, and there were also practical benefits to accessing cheaper food, Mollard said.

This time of year was a bit limited, but in the spring there would be a very good selection of herbs and produce such as tomatoes and strawberries to grow.

“It’s about creating a spark to grow food,” Mollard said.

The planters are designed to be eco-friendly, constructed with untreated pine and screws that prevent rust.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

The planters are designed to be eco-friendly, constructed with untreated pine and screws that prevent rust.

For those with a growing interest in gardening, the Manawatū Food Action Network could connect residents to other programs, such as community gardens.

They could also provide support for people wishing to have their own māra kai (vegetable garden) by helping to build larger gardens and offering mentorship.

Rangathi from across the region, including Horowhenua College, Freyberg High School, Cornerstone Christian School, Hato Pāora College, and Palmerston North Boys’ High School are involved in the project.

By attending UCOL two days a week, the students discovered that there is a real difference between building an object to be appraised and making wooden planters to give away.

Roy Fonoti of Horowhenua College said the added pressure of making a product for someone else honed his work.

“You have to make sure everything is well rinsed and well done,” he said.

Palmerston North Boys High School students Dante Tanoa-Makiangareu and Flynn Russell found building planters a good challenge.

“It’s good for the community and good for giving people what they need,” Dante said.

Flynn said that now the family knew he could make them, he was getting additional requests, with his grandmother placing his order.

In a statement, Kainga Ora’s senior stakeholder relations manager, Rebecca Kinloch, said the partnership demonstrated what working as a community can achieve, and that they were excited to be able to provide customers with ” fantastic planters”.

For UCOL, it’s a project that leaves a good taste.

William said, “It’s made by the students. It’s built to high standards, and then someone else benefits. It’s all this partnership.

“My heart is always to give back to the community and be part of the solution.”

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