Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti
1 min ago
It all began with a computer. Of Ngāti Kahungunu descent Jo Heperi was born and bred in Takapau, twenty minutes from Waipukurau. Jo worked as rouser (wool sorter) for half of her life while raising her three children. She loved the job in the sharing sheds although it was limited to the two annual sharing seasons.
In 1999 she purchased a computer which set the ball rolling. “I had bought the thing for educational reasons but the only thing I could do with it was to play Space Invaders,” she smiles.
In the local paper Jo discovered that EIT’s regional learning centre in Waipukurau offered a level 2 computing programme. “Up to this point I had no idea that this place even existed. I loved the course and I felt that it could open up opportunities for a full-time job,” Jo says.
The course kicked off an impressive educational journey. Jo went on to do a level 3 qualification and also a diploma in business. In 2007 she was offered a job at the learning centre as a learning facilitator and a few months later as an assistant for students with disabilities.
Then a new and very different qualification caught her eye. One would say that massage went into quite the opposite direction, however, it was a sign of Jo’s wide range of interests and talents. At the Lotus Holistic Centre in Hastings she gained a diploma in therapeutic massage. Jo opened her own massage business and also taught an introductory massage course at EIT.
In the meantime she joined the Taiwhenua O Tamatea in a project monitoring the water quality of the rivers in Central Hawke’s Bay. “I learned how to apply both western science by using a stream health monitoring assessment kit (measuring temperature, clarity, flow etc.) as well as the indigenous science investigating the cultural health of the waterways,” Jo says.
Delving into conservation and traditional Māori knowledge ignited a passion that led to Jo’s further study. At Te Wānanga o Raukawa she enrolled into a Poutuarongo Kaitiakitanga Pūtaiao (Bachelor in Environmental Management) and graduated in 2017 with a degree. However, her education journey didn’t end there.
While still working at the regional learning centre, Jo soon enrolled into a te reo Māori course at EIT. A few of her siblings are fluent speakers but Jo never had the inclination to learn te reo until she was in her late thirties. “It was really challenging but I had plenty of reasons to learn it. For instance I always wanted to stand up at a hui and say my pepeha.”
Jo completed a diploma in te reo Māori and started to lecture a basic course. Last semester she assisted lecturer Ahuriri Houkamau with his level 2 class. This semester she is teaching her own class and thoroughly enjoys passing on her love for the language. This could be the end of the story, but knowing Jo, it’s probably just the start of something new.
Jo particularly enjoys the community feeling at the learning centre in Waipukurau. “We are very much like a whānau. It’s the sort of place where you can always pop in for a coffee. The best learning often happens around the smoko table. No matter what your age, your educational history or schooling you have or might not have, you can come and upskill. We assist people to reach their goals and dreams.”