United Maori Mission is an interdenominational charitable trust that was formed in the 1930’s to help Maori as they were in the process of urbanization. The trust, based in Auckland, focused on Maori who were relocating to Auckland, both moving here for employment or training.
Founded by Sister Jessie Alexander, a Presbyterian who worked alongside the council and Maori affairs, over the years, others joined to create separate girls’ and boy’s hostels and at one point saw eight hostels running. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, when trades training was a high priority for government, the mission saw many groups stay for three, six or twelve months for training. ‘As a mission, we have always served like Christ; a lot of what we do is support and being there with people.’
For Tiroroa Residence, a 16-room hostel for girls in Auckland CBD, the organization looked at what does the 21st century look like for us. ‘For Maori girls, while they are able to perform comparatively with non-Maori at high school, when it comes to university, 60% don’t finish year one, often because nearly 50% of them are the first in their family to have gone to university. Our goal is to make sure 100% of our girls actually complete their studies.’
Tiroroa provides a unique residential experience, encouraging Maori women to thrive and flourish in a dynamic environment. The aim of Tiroroa Residences is to provide a safe, familiar environment where whanautanga is lived everyday in student community.
‘Together we become strong.’ Working together as whanau helps to ensure success in ‘getting across the line’ while helping to solve any problems that may occur along the way.
On Monday nights, Tiroroa host a whanau dinner (with lots of leftovers) where they talk, share, sometimes about parables or principles,sometimes to just reconnect. Students are also supported with budgeting,mentoring, and tutoring if needed. The rent is also subsidized at around 30-40% below other university accommodation rates.
‘Now we are looking at intergenerational change. If you train a man you train an individual; if you train a wahine, you train a whanau and a community, that’s our whole impact. Unfortunately we live in a world where divorce is quite prevalent, the mum is usually the one left with the kids, and we think she has the most influence, so we want to make sure we shore up their financial foundation.’
In December 2019, the trust partnered with Christian Savings for a complete fit out of the hostel, along with replacing the roof and windows, all ready to open mid-February for the university intake.
‘Knowing that ministry is important to Christian Savings,you know that people are important, and if anything went wrong, you’d work together on it. For us the next step is that this 16-room building can actually be rebuilt to be 80, that’s why we purchased the site, the long-term plan, isto offer accommodation for 80 Maori students.’
‘I think positive impact investing makes a difference, so if your investment is more than just the return, it can actually positively impact people’s lives.’