Kohanga kai – ‘not just for Maori’

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(Southland Times | Jared Morgan) Amorangi Hobson has remained stoic for her children’s sake. But, as she recounts escaping her crumbling house with her baby and the panic of not knowing if her other two children were safe, the mask cracks and the tears come.

I don’t want to break, I’m conscious that I don’t want them [her children] to see that.”

The family Miss Hobson, her daughters, 18-month-old Krysharley-Shay Hobson-Roberts and Jazzahray Walker-Wharehinga, 7, and son Ezekiel Walker-Wharehinga, 5 have lost everything.

Speaking from Rehua Marae’s kohanga reo in the central Christchurch suburb of St Albans, Miss Hobson and her whanau are a human face to relief being rolled out by Ngai Tahu and Maori support agencies to Maori and other people who need help.

“This is the first help I’ve had,” Miss Hobson said.

Her plight was discovered when kohanga reo staff contacted family of enrolled children after the quake.

Krysharley’s father, Harley Roberts, had dropped his daughter home and was leaving Miss Hobson’s Wainoni house when the earthquake struck.

As the house pitched, the doors jammed, sealing her and Krysharley inside and Mr Roberts locked out.

“I had to jump through a window with my baby and a pram,” Ms Hobson said.

Outside, her thoughts turned to her children and she and Mr Roberts ran from the Breezes Rd house towards Avondale Primary School as liquefied sand bubbled from the ground.

“By the time we got to Wainoni Rd cars were floating. We were standing in the street for ages because we were so scared,” she said, her voice cracking.

Crying from her children’s school could be heard from almost a block away, Miss Hobson said.

“When we got to the school we couldn’t find them [her children], there were just hundreds of kids standing on the field as the liquefaction came up around them. It was a whole school of crying children.”

The feeling of finding her children had “no words”.

That relief soon became frustration as chaos in the streets made the 10-minute journey back to her house a 90-minute ordeal.

The journey was a waste. “We can’t get in, the doors won’t open.” With the house close to collapse, “we are homeless”.

Food has been steadily flowing into the kohanga reo, with donations from iwi throughout New Zealand.

It was Invercargill’s turn at the weekend, with three van loads of food collected in the south brought north.

Two of the Invercargill contingent, Christine Mohi and Sharon Larby, said the food was collected from southern kohanga and Maori support groups before being taken north.

Te Kohanga Reo National Trust chief executive Titoki Black, of Wellington, is working at the kohanga and said the food followed supplies sent from the North Island.

She was confident the food would easily be distributed among the families of the kohanga’s 150 children and said it might be sent wider.

It’s about public support, it doesn’t matter what colour you are it’s not just for Maori, it’s for everyone.”

But the volume of donations coming into the marae in general was threatening to swamp Ngai Tahu.

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