Marae meals gather community

A buzz of conversation and music filled Araiteuru Marae on Monday, as dozens of community members...
A buzz of conversation and music filled Araiteuru Marae on Monday, as dozens of community members came together for the weekly Pātaka Ora gathering. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
The warmth of community wrapped around the large gathering of people sharing kai and conversation at Monday’s Pātaka Ora meal at Araiteuru Marae.

Prepared by volunteers and featuring a selection of hot dishes, salads, bread, and superb apple and rhubarb crumble, the convivial meal was shared by about 60 people of all ages and backgrounds.

Araiteuru Marae manager and cheerful Pātaka Ora meal host Tania Williams ensured a welcoming atmosphere at the weekly community meals, and encouraged korero, laughter, singing and dancing.

"The essence of Pātaka Ora is life enhancement and joy — we love to hear that buzz among the people," Ms Williams said.

Founded in 2022, the "beautiful" community meals had shifted to alternating Monday lunchtimes and evenings, as this could be a tough time of the week for many people.

"Coming together for a meal gives people a chance to make connections and to enjoy good food," she said.

"And we have containers, or people can bring their own, to take left over food away with them — which can be important for getting through the week."

Araiteuru Marae’s Pātaka Ora community meals were based in the Maori practice of manaakitanga — hospitality, generosity, and respect for guests and visitors, Ms Williams said.

"We love to welcome people to be part of the meals — from mokupuna to the elderly, to come and share this time with each other.

"We want people to enjoy companionship, create memories, and feel safe — we shower everyone with love.

"Taking the lead is a humbling and gratifying role for me — and I’m very grateful that people come to take part."

The meals were supported through community donations of food and funds and co-ordinated by a dedicated committee, who worked in the background to co-ordinate the meals week-to-week.

"Big thanks to them, and to KiwiHarvest, and all the people in the community who donate," she said.

There is a givealittle page to support the Araiteuru Marae Pātaka Ora community meals.

Along with the meal, the Pātaka Ora events include a space where people can bring food and other items to give away.

Ms Williams said Araiteuru Marae had recently been successful in securing funding to develop community gardens on-site, which would help to grow food for the meals. The search is now on for a team of keen gardeners to help with the project.