Transforming their community, one squat at a time
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Diana Amundsen’s fight for fitness had been a losing one until she found the key to changing up a gear right in the heart of her community.
Her doctor had said she needed to lose weight and change lifestyle habits, but a green prescription (written advice from a health professional to be active and improve your diet) for things like zumba and badminton simply didn’t work for her.
Then she found a free early-morning fitness programme - Hā Ora - literally just up the road at the Pop-up Park in Gate Pā.
“I was like yup, okay, I can do this.”
Hā Ora is the brainchild of Roha Dalton-Reedy (Ngati Kahungunu, Rangitane, Ngai Tahu) and Tamati Robens (Ngati Porou, Ngapuhi).
They hold group classes at Pop-Up Park that are attracting people of all ages and fitness levels and that’s was part of the attraction for Amundsen.
“This thing Hā Ora came along, another one of these trial things you know, I was like okay I’ll give it a go ... I went to that and I just loved Roha and Tama straight away.
“Because they didn’t make me feel stink, you know?”
Hā Ora started nearly a year ago with just a couple of sessions each week.
When it moved to every weekday, Amundsen said she thought it would be too much, but now she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Co-founder Dalton-Reedy said they started off knowing a lot of people couldn’t afford regular gym memberships but they also wanted to create a space to give back to whānau, helping to educate them and reach their fitness goals.
“We are here to awhi (support) and give aroha (love) to those who come by to the morning sessions and also offer free kai in the morning for the children.”
Dalton-Reedy said it’s more than just a morning workout.
“We try to also show our tikanga Māori, our cultural values like respecting our elders.”
And Dalton-Reedy said it was hugely rewarding seeing the wider impact Hā Ora had on people.
“One day a mother who comes to workout was having a tough time with her young boy, so we took this young boy and encouraged him through our korero (discussion) and the mother says he’s changed a lot at home and in school.”
He said they’re also proud to see the positive effect the programme had on people’s mental health.
When the weather was bad, Dalton-Reedy and Robens moved from the park, across the road to the hall at Gate Pā School.
School principal Rochelle Jensen said it was a great initiative, so they’re very happy to support it.
“It’s very whānau based, and they’re both great trainers. We’re lucky to have it.
“Tama and Roha are great role models for our community and our tamariki as well.”
The pair work in the school’s Māori immersion unit, Kaiārahi i te Reo, and Jensen said they’re putting what they teach in the classroom into practice.
“Their skillset has been very great and to see them take it out there, it’s transformed our community.”
Gate Pā resident Martinis Van Den Anker has been going to the Hā Ora training session since the start of the year.
He said he was unfit, and couldn’t even last five minutes running around with his kids.
“I’ve never done anything like this, the body was more scared than my feelings of being scared.”
He says korikori tinana (exercise) was never part of his lifestyle until the two trainers motivated and inspired him.
“When I first attended, I was very slack, my energy levels were very low.
“I couldn’t do five push ups, I couldn’t do one chin-up, today I can do 20 chin-ups.”
Hā Ora runs free community sessions from 7am-8am, Monday to Friday at the Pop-Up Park in Gate Pā.
Dalton-Reedy and Robens have been steadily growing the programme, and now hope to expand to evening sessions as the warmer and longer days kick in over spring and summer.
Hero image: Team Hā Ora at an early morning training session. Photo / Alualumoana Luaitalo