Inspiring Māori trades tutor commended - twice

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07 Sep 2016

Not one to seek out recognition, He Toki ki te Rika carpentry tutor Jim Keenan, finds himself being commended twice in as many weeks.

Firstly, five years of dedicated service to He Toki ki te Rika was celebrated with a special gift. Tā Mark Solomon, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere and He Toki patron, presented Jim with a pounamu taonga at a recent dinner for He Toki graduates.

The He Toki Māori trades training programme is an iwi-led partnership between Ara, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Te Tapuae O Rehua and Hawkins. The programme was launched soon after the earthquakes to upskill Māori for leadership positions in the rebuild of Christchurch. Jim has been with the partnership since the beginning.

The taonga, a sculptured pounamu pendant, named Te Hono Whenua, speaks to Jim’s family background with the tapered edges representing the binding together of the north and south islands. The taonga also celebrates the inspiration Jim gives his students.

“I like being involved in helping people change their lives,” Jim says.

“He toki is about building character and building hope. There is a saying I really like and think of often: You teach them enough so they can leave but care enough so they don’t want to,” he says.

Jim understands the value of his taonga, “it was made for me, so it has some mana. I love it,” he says.  

The presentation was made at a dinner for He Toki alumni on 15 August. “I had 10 past students there who are now on the leadership programme, He Toki Ki Te Mahi, and seeing them makes you feel good. They are so grown up, they are men now; I feel like a father to them,” he says.

Jim paid homage to past He Toki leader Hemi te Hemi who was also at the dinner. “Hemi had faith in me, he backed me and gave me opportunities, such as going to Hawaii to present at a conference,” he says.

The second recognition of Jim’s dedication comes next week when he is awarded a Certificate in Tertiary Learning and Teaching at the Ara Institute of Canterbury Spring Graduation ceremony on 16 September.

His success and the opportunity to make a difference to young lives is even sweeter for Jim, because he’s had his own personal challenges with drug abuse. He speaks openly about his past to inspire young people to make good choices.

“I made some good decisions and look where I am now. It helps me to have credibility with the students because I know what it is like to make bad choices,” says Jim.

He Toki works to build a community of leaders. “He Toki apprentices, students and former students are looking forward to connecting with one another over the coming months including at a He Toki hāngi later in the year,” Kym Hamilton,He Toki Programme Manager, says.

The partnership model is an important element of the success of He Toki, which has now trained over 1200 pre-trades students. Paul Rose, from Hawkins, was also recognised at the dinner for his work in “supporting apprentices in employment and students in pre-trades, by providing insights into employment from a commercial industry and employers’ perspectives throughout the work readiness programme”, Kym says.