The project “Rautipara Au o Rangiatea” (Legendary Men and Women of Rangiatea) was initiated by Mere Goodwin Charlie.
Years ago, at a family funeral, she noted how people praise the person who had passed on.
“What a waste when we praise people when they have passed away and they’re not here to listen to good things about them when they have contributed so much and shared their knowledge to us and our village and they are not appreciated while they are living,” said Charlie.
“When someone says nice positive things, it helps ease their stress, makes them feel good and proud. Kind words can help someone heal.”
In 2018, when another prominent village elder Papa Mataio Aperau passed away, Charlie thought of a get together for the golden legends in the community but was unsure of how to start.
Then during the Covid-19 crisis, former Minister of Matavera Papa Peri Vaevae Pare suddenly passed on and not long after Aunty Tere Aperau.
This spurred Charlie into action to start something she and others had been talking about for years.
“This is it, we need to do something now and not wait any longer,” she said.
“I wanted to do something to acknowledge our elders now, while they are living with us.”
Fifty-seven residents of Rangiatea aged 60 plus accepted the invitation to attend the function.
A three course meal was served starting with soup, a main course and dessert, with the sounds of Ru’s live band as entertainment.
The Revival church supported and hosted the event along with the Tuavera and Goodwin families, and a small team of volunteers from the Catholic and Cook Islands Christian church.
Organisers also hired a van to pick up those who only have a motorbike for transport and each person received a bag of grocery goodies.
Former mayor of Vaka Takitumu Tereapii Enua opened the occasion and many wonderful, humorous stories of childhood in the village were shared.
Charlie said the evening was successful.
“It was wonderful and emotional, the laughter and dancing from our elders, the atmosphere was so good and I’m happy many turned up as there are a few overseas.”
She wants people to show their appreciation for their elders now.
“Now is the time. A time to celebrate those in our village, to appreciate what they have imparted onto us that has helped make us into who we are today. Let’s not wait until our elderly pass on then decide to praise them and thank them,” Charlie said.
“Do it now, visit your Mamas and Papas, visit the older ones in your community, have a cup of tea, share stories, listen and laugh, make them feel good.”