Kai Aroha – Food with Compassion, Kindness and Equity

Kai Aroha

Kai Aroha alleviates poverty among the Tauranga community by providing families with hot nutritious food and grocery items one night per week.

Feeding Our Hungry Community

Poverty is rooted in brokenness, broken systems, broken families and individuals so do we all just give up? Is it too hard? I ask.

Homelessness was just everywhere and not only in the news, it was right on our doorstep!

Enter Kai Aroha

My whanau and I wanted to be part of the solution in doing our part to alleviate poverty in Tauranga Moana. We had the idea of feeding homeless with a cup of soup, bread roll and a cuppa tea in a thermos. This was the approach, it was manageable and it worked.

Starting out small was the key, remaining small is still the key. My husband was a chef at a local family restaurant and worked at night, he would make the soup before he went to work in the afternoon, I was teaching during the day and still am.

My mum and I visited ‘Under the Stars’ while they were still serving at the library. I wanted see what they did because all I wanted to do was feed soup to the people, make them feel welcome, have friendly korero then go home. But there was more to it than that, it was continuity and sustainability.

Was I able to keep up with this weekly and on a budget of $20 per week? The answer is yes, however, there is more to it than heart. I had to be real.

Friday nights was the night, outside the ANZ bank in Greerton, a rugged sign painted in the colour pink with the words “free kai for the homeless” hinged to the window. The bank manager named Tony was a great guy, super supportive of us.

The time came to advertise on social media to invite anyone who’d like to help out and slowly but surely support from the community arrived. The first couple of Friday’s we’d get one or two homeless, a man with a dog, a family from Whangarei living in their car. Each week more hungry people came out. The community wanted to help which was great!…at first.

I had a team, some of those originals are still with Kai Aroha today. But Kai Aroha blew out so fast that things got slightly out of control. Back to social media, this time to say I was cutting back my team of volunteers and sticking to food, no more clothing and other items.

Sticking To Your Purpose

That decision made me realise the importance of sticking to your purpose. Then Kai Aroha started to flourish. It had to flourish for the purpose of gaining community support in helping us feed the homeless and hungry people.

The team then grew in interest and in commitment. The Kai Aroha team come from all walks of life and different backgrounds but what unites us as one is that we had the same vision, to feed our hungry community with love, compassion and kindness. My amazing husband Tawhai, our children and my mum Helen have been a great strength of support in steering Kai Aroha.

My team is the most amazing team of volunteers of all who help drive the kaupapa vision of Kai Aroha. I could not do this without them and my whanau. Kai Aroha is a relief service to the community. We aim to alleviate the current poverty situation people are in by providing them with hot nutritious food and grocery items one night per week.

Food Is Healing

I believe that feeding nutritious food to our community is part of the healing process in helping people move forward in their journey to be free from poverty. We are volunteers and we love volunteering for our community.

Kai Aroha aims to value every person that comes to our weekly meal and make them feel welcomed and respected as people, as individuals and not as poor and needy. We are volunteers and we love volunteering for our community.

Kai Aroha not only provides a meal on Friday nights we also celebrate local and national events such as Matariki night for the homeless and the annual World Homeless Day community cardboard Art event which Kai Aroha initiated. Kai Aroha instigated and organised the ‘Hikoi for the Homeless’ last year 18 June 2018, after we heard of the councils’ proposed bylaw to ban rough sleeping and begging.

We all wanted change, we wanted solutions for our chronic homeless, particularly for single
homeless women.

How to help Kai Aroha

‘Kai Aroha – Feeding Our Hungry Community Incorporated’ turns three years old in May this year.

We have served over 8,000 meals during this time, 700 voluntary hours per volunteer serving and prepping meals, not including fundraising, team meetings, planning and other mahi we do.

We have come this far and the community has helped us all the way, yet we are still struggling to achieve some of our goals. We have new ideas for serving our community, but without a permanent building for every Friday night of the year, we continue to face the elements.

We are currently hiring the Greerton Community Hall for the winter months and then we will be back at the Centrepoint carpark. We need a cargo van that we can customise with shelving to pick up food, shopping and store our gear in. We have started fundraising for this but are nowhere close to the $30,000 plus we need.

We also need new t-shirts/jackets because our current tops are nearly three years old and have worn out. Petrol vouchers are also really useful!

We believe that with the help from businesses and community and tonnes of hope we will get our wish list items. If you’d like to take action too, please contact us!

Email us at kaiaroha1267@gmail.com with the subject title “call to action” so we know you are responding to these articles!

-By Tania Lewis-Rickard

Source: https://issuu.com/baywaka/docs/bay_waka_-_winter_issue_15_may-july