Regional | Gangs

Initiative by whānau for whānau out of love

A Napier woman has been recognised for her work within the Hawke's Bay community.

Cherie Kurarangi of Ngāti Kahungunu set up Hearty Families, to help reconnect the families of Māori women in gangs, many of whom are former inmates.

“There's a home here, we got you. And it's all sisters, we're just a bunch of mums who love our kids. We need to be in their lives,” Kurarangi says.

Cherie Kurarangi leads the Hearty Families initiative and she says her heart aches for those who are less fortunate, and the situation for one mum who is staying with her stands out for her.

She says, “She was found on the beach, she is heavily pregnant and she's got a one-year-old. And the housing situation here in Hawke's Bay is overwhelming. And since the cyclone it's become more overwhelming.”

A leader in her community Kurarangi said that although she doesn’t have qualifications in the work, she does she only wishes to see families being brought back together again.

“I've got a lived experience I couldn't say I've got all the academic qualifications when I started this, but I'm certainly going out of my way to get them.”

Kurarangi says on average she helps nine families a week and over the past year more than 5000 people have sought her aid. In May she was recognised for her contributions to the community, winning a Napier citizen award.

“I was really humbled. I've been doing this for so long trying to keep it on the down low, trying to not be boastful, just trying to do this with hearty wairua. And as a real kaupapa, so you're not out there filming yourself, feeding the homeless. I was just trying to get the mahi done,” she says.

Hearty Families was founded in 2020 and is not funded by any external sources. Kurarangi says the well-being of families is her drive to keep going.

“I really wanted to create a space where tamariki and mums can come together in a home-based, whānau-focused environment. Where it's free too .... I just want to help our whānau because we are at the sharpest end of every socioeconomic scale that there is in New Zealand. Where is the hope? If not me, then who?”