Tania Lewis-Rickard & Marcia Taikato-Whauwhau
A beautiful friendship has developed between two women, as they work together to help the community.
Tania Lewis-Rickard is a high school art teacher who started Kai Aroha, a free weekly meal for those in need. Marcia Taikato-Whauwhau is her right-hand woman and a close friend.
Tania (pictured on left):
I was a teacher at Tauranga Girls’ College, so I first knew of Marcia as a dedicated parent to her daughter. I also saw her at local kaupapa Māori events. But I never actually met her until she and
her husband turned up one night to help at Kai Aroha.
I already knew Marcia was a purpose-driven person and I needed people like her on my team.
Then, after a few short months, we talked more and more, shared ideas and grew to know each other. She and Tama shared with me how it’s part of their family culture to help the homeless, and every Christmas they would buy or cook up kai and drive around the streets to find and feed people.
Our professional relationship for Kai Aroha developed as we shared our hopes for the community
— to feed as many hungry people as possible with not only kai for the puku but kai for the soul, that being manaaki (hospitality, generosity and care for others), atawhai (kindness), aroha (love) and ngākau aroha (compassion). Our friendship grew, too, as our conversations became more meaningful, beyond Kai Aroha. We spend time with each other’s families, even if it means just going out for a coffee or to each other’s houses for a cup of tea and cookies. Marcia and Tama are very humble people. They don’t ask for anything, they just get the job done; they give their all.
Marcia is very supportive of my spontaneous way of working, though I’m not like that all the time.
She is always on board and so is her whanau. I feel for her, putting up with my crazy, ‘out-of-it’ ideas for community projects. However, I believe that if it’s going to work, and we have the resources, connections and people to do it, then we just do it!
I’ve put a committee together to help make decisions and ensure everything runs smoothly. Marcia
is my team manager — she says she manages the stress. I think that is hard case. She does more than that! I can rely on Marcia, she is definitely a ‘pou’ (metaphoric support post) for me and for
the Kai Aroha team. She is honest, straight up, a clear thinker, so warm and kind-hearted,
whanau-orientated, positive and fun.
She is loyal to me and our friendship, and to my role as the leader of Kai Aroha. Like my whanau, Marcia is a great sounding board, she helps me put things into perspective, has strengths where
I don’t, and just gets me and validates everything I do.
I reckon we are the Kai Aroha version of MasterChef winners Karena and Casey Bird of Maketu
— fun, a bit crazy, community-driven or kaupapa-driven, clear about our views, risk takers and professional in what we do. Except I’m not a flash cook like the Bird sisters. Oh gosh, I’d love to
learn from them! Marcia, though, is a pretty good cook.
She is the epitome of mana wāhine! Marcia is a charismatic woman of integrity.
We will be friends for life!
When Tan first started Kai Aroha, which wasn’t Kai Aroha then but a pot of soup in Greerton,
my husband and I jumped on board the following week and went to help. That was in July 2016.
We just sort of clicked straight away. We have things in common — a love for te ao Māori, I also weave and she’s an art teacher, so she gets me as well as I get her.
Kai Aroha has given us a great bond. Our relationship has grown tremendously — we talk just
about every day, but I can also just go to her house, sit and feel comfortable. She’s open with her home and vice versa; I open my home up to her whenever she needs it. Our husbands get along really well, too — they have a big input into Kai Aroha.
Tania’s strength is the love and compassion she gives. It can also be her downfall. She sees
the good in everything and everybody and she’s very passionate about everything she does. It’s
good that she has her husband, Tawhai, to yank her back into line, because if she sees someone
in need, she will help them, regardless of if they’re taking advantage of her.
She very rarely has time for herself, but I think it’s because she’s got her art work, her school life,
Kai Aroha and her family life. She’s a very hands-on mum.
There are no surprises with Tan and Tawhai, you know who they are. I love Tan’s personality.
I love the way she just jumps into something — nothing stops her if she wants to be doing something. That’s how Kai Aroha was born. We’ve done a few things like that, like World Homeless Day, which was a thought the week before and we just jumped straight into it.
I’m the type of person who will get anxious about things, but when it’s done on a whim like that
it’s really good for me. When someone needs help, Tania will be right there… They know if they message her she will try her darnedest to help. They know they can rely on her.
Her students are also very important to her and I love that she pulls them on board to teach them. She has roped the nutrition students into baking for Kai Aroha, and the students all brought in personal care products to help out. She gets everyone involved.
As told to Rosie Dawson-Hewes
Photography by Erin Cave