Te Haupai Davis is harnessing the power of kapa haka to help enrich the lives of rangatahi through a unique programme called Kapa Haumanu that he and wife Estella have developed. 

“Our kaupapa is that we’re dedicated and committed to the revitalisation and long-term healing of our people, starting with our rangatahi,” he says. 

After a succession of factory jobs, Te Haupai says his wife encouraged him to follow his passions. “I wanted to study child psychology when I left school but got a job, money started coming in, and I forgot that dream. One thing I love to do is help people, so we narrowed it down to helping kids. And we were both quite interested in psychology, so then we narrowed it down to counselling.” 

In 2019 the couple started Bachelor of Counselling degrees together at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology not knowing exactly what it would look like, but clear that when they completed their degrees, they would focus on working with rangatahi.  

Last year Estella took a break from studying to give birth to a little girl in May. Hina is tamariki number seven that they call their own; three of whom live in Auckland and four with them in Nelson. The year off means Te Haupai graduated in 2021 and Estella will follow in 2022. 

The couple who moved to Nelson in 2016 are seasoned exponents of kapa haka, which led to an invitation in 2019 to tutor at Nayland College. It was soon after that they started their degrees and quickly realised that there wasn’t enough time in lunch breaks to teach what they needed, so they came up with the idea of doing their placements at the school and developed a programme aligned with their studies. 

“We created our own placement to deliver therapy through kapa haka, and in 2020 we piloted the programme with support and funding from Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu.” 

Te Haupai (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tipa, Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Niuean/Samoan) says the couple are not getting their degrees to be counsellors, “we’re getting them to learn the language, the skills, the core counselling skills, the sentence structures in order to awhi rangatahi and guide them and deliver therapy through kapa haka. 

“When we first started at the college, there was no connection between a lot of the kids – just a lot of disconnection. The kids didn’t know each other’s names, and there were a lot of cliques. These kids have changed, we see unity within the kapa, and they trust each other.” 

Te Haupai says kapa haka is a great way to externalise emotions. “If you’re going through things, haka is a really great example of how you can externalise frustration and anger and let things out. Poi is quite elegant, the way wāhine move, and our tane too. You can be feeling good about yourself and put it into your movements. Moteatea is what we use to carry our stories and getting tauira to realise these are all components of therapy.” 

Checking-in with one another as a group and sharing their thoughts and feelings before each session is also an important part of the programme. 

The success of the programme has grown the school’s whānau group from around a dozen to over 100 tauira and more than 250 different whānau members engaging in the group. The kapa haka group known as Puuaha Te Tai and is the first to ever represent Nayland College at Te Tauihu Regional Kura Tuarua Kapa Haka. 

Walking alongside Te Haupai and Estella on their journey has been Kia Ora Hauora and Te Waipounamu Regional Coordinator Trudy Thomson. 

“Kia Ora Hauora’s been there from the start,” says Ta Haupai. “Whaea Trudy, she has seen us go from absolute newbies who don’t know how to fill out a scholarship application to running a full-on business. She’s been really influential and such a big help.” 

The couple have been supported through Ministry of Health Hauora Māori scholarships, attended Study to Mahi workshops and received Putea Maanaki funding. 

“Kia Ora Hauora and Whaea Trudy have been one of our biggest support networks. If we ever need help she’s always there for us.” 

Te Haupai would like to see Kapa Haumanu expand to include intermediate schools creating pathways and networks to support tauira transitioning to secondary school. 

“The relationship with the kids is paramount, their wellbeing and hauora is paramount over everything. We made it clear at the start that Estella and my roles are not to come in and win a competition as a kapa haka rōpū, it is to ensure that these kids’ hauora and wellbeing is at the forefront of what we do. 

“The big moemoea that we are working towards is that this becomes a Ministry of Health intervention that we can roll out nationwide.” 

Article written for Kia Ora Hauora

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