It was a magnificent occasion on site at Whenua Iti to celebrate our 35th Birthday. At the centre of all the celebrations, as she should be, was Hazel Nash, still as vibrant and dynamic as when she first sparked the idea of Whenua Iti in the mid-80s.
The evening kicked off with a mihimihi, lead my Mātua Mike Elkington, to welcome the return of extended whānau to Whenua Iti. It is significant to note that Mātua Mike, now a lead kaiako/kaiārahi for Whenua Iti, was once a student of Hazel’s and is testament to the wonderful sense of whānau that was instilled by Hazel and the founding members of the Trust from the very beginning.
The event provided a wonderful opportunity to weave the generations of Whenua Iti whānau together, with many connections made between past and present contributors to WIO. The 72 guests included past board chairs, students, past instructors, neighbours, the existing team, original volunteers and community supporters. Given the current climate for gatherings, we made the tough call to restrict invitations to ensure the event could take place, choosing to focus on current staff and contemporaries of the original founders, with a view to having further events at a later date should restrictions ease. Fingers crossed!
Mark, our current General Manager, and Pip Lynch, the current Board Chair both had the opportunity to speak and acknowledge the number of people who have been involved in the establishment of the organisation over the years, many of whom were present for the celebrations, though many were also missed and thought of.
Hazel was gifted a beautiful framed portrait of her made by Sarah Trolle, a local artist, to commemorate this important milestone. In her following speech, Hazel made a point of acknowledging a number of people who were integral to the formation of the Whenua Iti Trust who she refers to as the ‘pillars’ of the organisation. Anne Verity, her mentor, Bruce Gilkison and Ross Broadhead who provided essential advice in setting up the Trust and the Stanbridge Family for their incredible volunteer involvement in getting the site and programmes up and running.
She also shed some light on how the name of ‘Whenua Iti’ came into being, a name that was ultimately blessed by local kaumatua Uncle Tom Bailey, after Hazel had spent the time with Uncle Tom learning how to respectfully honour tangata whenua in the work she was doing.
After sharing kai together, a titoki was planted to commemorate the occasion. There have been many plantings at the site made over the years, as Hazel started with a bare piece of land. There are now mature trees, with strong roots, that creates an ideal place for both people & nature to flourish.
Our deepest gratitude to everyone who attended for making it such a special evening.
Poipoia te kākano, kia puāwai – Nurture the seed and it will blossom