The Kia Ngawari Te Kohanga Reo community has celebrated 35 years of providing Maori language preschool education in Mataura.
It had been a long journey to achieve the milestone, kaiako matua (senior teacher) Ami Rarere said.
During the celebrations, the community remembered the many people who had helped establish and develop the facility, Mrs Rarere said.
A plaque acknowledging the kaumatua who had supported the kohanga was unveiled.
‘‘My wish is to continue this legacy of our ancestors, that one day our language will be the first language of New Zealand.’’
The success of the kohanga was due to teamwork, she said.
‘‘This is how our whanau work.
‘‘We work together.
‘‘Whanau is our foundation.’’
Throughout the years, projects had included building an outside play area and sheds and buying vans to transport the pupils and staff on outings.
Originally from the Philippines, Mrs Rarere married a New Zealander and started living in Wyndham, so she brought her son to the kohanga.
She felt at home in the kohanga, learned te reo Maori and has worked there ever since.
Kaiako Trish Emia said the whakatauki- (proverb) ‘‘he waka eke noa’’ was very appropriate to the kohanga.
The whakatauki meant that, as on a journey in a waka, everyone has to co-operate and paddle together.
‘‘We all do the same mahi all together, to benefit all of us.’’
If people did not have a common vision, the project, like a waka where everyone was paddling in different directions, would tip over.
‘‘We all need to row the same waka, all of us altogether, no-one left behind.’’