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23 January 2021

Connecting youths to their environment

Saturday 9 January 2021 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Environment, National


Connecting youths to their environment
Photo: SEI PHOTOGRAPHY. 28010827

A local non-government organisation is running a programme to help connect Cook Islands youth with nature.

Sixteen-year old Charlene Akaruru of Tereora College says she has never had any connection to the sea before.

But after joining the 'Atui'anga ki te Tango senior programme, she says she has grown to be courageous, to understand more about the ocean and gained the strength to explore the unknown.

“This whole programme was really amazing and exciting and it was different from other programmes I have been to, because with the 'Atui'anga ki te Tango you become more connected with nature and find out who you really are as a Cook Islander,” Akaruru says.

She says she’s learned more traditional skills, has a better understanding of her Cook Islands culture, and has bonded with other students who were part of the programme.

Around 20 youths are part of Kōrero o te `Ōrau’s, 'Atui'anga ki te Tango senior programme this year.

Kōrero o te `Ōrau executive member Jackie Rongo says ‘Ātui’anga ki te Tango is about connecting Cook Islands youth to their natural environment through scientific and culture-based learning.

The programme is for senior students above the age of 14 and includes several activities such as mountain hiking, night snorkelling, fishing and also first aid training as well as coral reef monitoring and links with Operation Taramea.

The 'Atui'anga ki te Tango senior students after their Wayfinding class with Master Navigator Peia Pata. Photo: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU. 21010817/21010818

Rongo says the focus is to upskill indigenous Maori children.

The programme takes place over two weeks whereby the first week is for SCUBA certification and the second week is focused on Ridge to Reef learnings. 

The programme’s objective is expose students to scientific and traditional knowledge and complementary activities to enhance their understanding of the natural environment and associated traditional practices.

“Students include eight new students who have recently completed their Open Water SCUBA certification, eight current 'Atui'anga ki te Tango students who have already completed SCUBA certification (some Open Water, some Advanced, and four students currently undergoing Rescue Diver certification) and three new students expressed interest in the programme, and may progress to SCUBA certification in our next intake for Open Water certification,” Rongo said.

Four of their students – Te Mata Patai, Athina Karika, Charlene Akaruru and Meilani Karika – are undergoing Rescue Diver certification.

Most students have gone through CPR and First Aid training through Cook Islands Red Cross/Emergency First Responder and Dive Rarotonga.

The programme is supported by partners Nia Tero and Dive Rarotonga and recently Synchronicity Earth who has joined to help support the programme.