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Te Kahui

Creative Writing Programme

Te Kāhui is a creative writing programme facilitating equitable self-expression opportunities for underserved, incarcerated rangatahi (youth) at Mt Eden Corrections Facility in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Conceptualised in 2019 by young creatives Eric Soakai, Jorja Heta and Zak Devey, seeing our mahi fully funded in December 2020 was a formative experience for the entire team - and a critical milestone in allowing us to expand and deepen the programme’s impact for our cohorts.

With the onset of 2020’s first COVID-19 lockdown, the Te Kāhui team had to be quick on its feet in considering how we might continue to serve our incarcerated rangatahi. In less than two weeks, we created a remote iteration of the programme allowing youth to engage with remote booklets, receive feedback on their work, and request typed and graphically-designed copies of their mahi. These resources were incredibly well received by

“I expressed my feelings which felt good because I don’t usually open up to people.”
“I enjoyed today’s session, because I got to write a poem for the first time in my life, and I love it.”

the corrections community, being made available to over 3000 inmates nationwide as part of the “Brain Bites” Covid-19 response programme. Since then, we’ve been able to carry out our face-to-face and remote programmes in tandem, serving another 200 inmates from both local and distant facilities.

“I did the activities over a span of a week. I’d just like to say thank you to the people of Te Kāhui for providing a creative release for people who are in a bad place. It really helped...”
“I really enjoyed reading the feedback from the last booklet, I really appreciated the comments and found it very uplifting, it was great for my wairua also, thank you.”

Internally, the past year has seen two more incredible rangatahi, Ruby Macomber and Phodiso Dintwe, join the Te Kāhui whānau to meet programme demand - leading to the conceptualisation of new and improved facilitation strategies. The chance to create safe spaces to kōrero with and empower vulnerable rangatahi is a dream come true for us, and we can’t wait to take the programme into new spaces in 2021.

Number at a glance

  • 200 Young Inmates engaged
  • Over 300 exercises completed
  • 96% of feedback positive
  • Writing feedback requested on over 200 exercises
  • Two thirds of participants wished to be considered for a future anthology

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