Meet the crew at Te Wao

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Published: 6 October 2023

Twelve years after first opening their doors in 2010, council funded and operated Te Wao is providing an inclusive space for intermediate and college-aged rangatahi in Te Awa Kairangi ki Tai Lower Hutt.

Te Wao (formerly Naenae Clubhouse) offers a free space for intermediate and college-aged kids to hang out after school, make connections and have the freedom to lead their own decision making. An average day could see between 15 – 30 rangatahi through the doors across the few hours it’s open.

Te Wao is promoted as an ‘in-between space.’ Somewhere that isn’t school or home and is free of the pressures and responsibilities of those environments. The aim is to deliver support and enable programmes that respond to the needs of youth in our community. Relationship building is prioritised, often backed-up with mentors who can share both their lived and learned experiences (including technical knowledge).

Arts & crafts, gaming, design and 3D printing are all available as creative outlets at Te Wao. Music is the biggest drawcard with beat-making being available in the recording studio. There is also a ‘Seniors Day’ every Thursday, which is for Years 11, 12 and 13. They can come and use the space without sharing it with younger kids. This allows time to provide direct support for older members – specifically for NCEA, employment, navigating relationships and more.

Derived from Te Wao Nui a Tāne, the name translates as ‘The Forest’ and reflects the ecosystem of support and mentoring that happens within the space. The name recognizes the importance of te taiao within Te Ao Māori for its life-giving properties and is underpinned by the need to establish an environment that is conducive to the growth and development of rangatahi, ensuring the space we co-create is one where everybody feels safe to be themselves and to connect, explore and learn.

Ryan Poole, Pou Tiaki Lead at Te Wao, wants to continue to connect with other organisations and community groups who provide amazing services for rangatahi in the Hutt Valley. “Expanding our reach and building a well-resourced youth network that serves all our communities’ is the goal” says Ryan. With the safe space that has been created for rangatahi within Te Wao, the team get to experience first hand the positive impact they provide.

“It’s incredible to witness the development of those who come to Te Wao and be cheerleaders alongside them on their journeys", says Ryan - a sentiment that is echoed by the rest of the Te Wao team. Pou Tiaki Matthew, Gene and Zadie agree that getting to celebrate the successes, big and small with their young people is part of what makes the job so rewarding. "It's seeing them grow, developing their confidence and character-building in real time," says Gene. “You can see the impact we have on the young people" says Zadie, "Being a trusted adult in their life that they feel comfortable with and seeing this in how they greet us, talk to us, share with us.”

The team hope to continue the increasing engagement with Te Wao. They want to share what they do and why they do it in the hope that more young people will come and use the space.

Te Wao, Treadwell Street Hall, 25 Treadwell Street, Lower Hutt

· Monday - Friday 3pm-6pm

· Thursdays are Senior's Day (Year 11/12/13)

· Hours change during school holidays and will be posted on social media. Follow Te Wao on Facebook:

Follow Te Wao on Instagram: @tewao_naenae