He Waka eke Noa (This Is Us) is a project initiated by Rotary in Tauranga following the Mosque shootings in Christchurch.
The programme encourages people of different ethnic or religious backgrounds to tell their stories of how they came to New Zealand and how they see New Zealand in the future.
The project is exhibited at the Historic Village in Tauranga. Our Assistant Governor, Ron Fyfe from Tauranga Sunrise Rotary happened to be on duty when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited the Historic Village recently. Following her speech, she walked past the exhibition and Ron caught her attention and explained the background of this impressive project. Jacinda was very interested in it, taking the time to look at the hois and their different stories.
The District Board received a report from Ron about He Waka eke Noa at their last meeting. As a result, they encourage other Clubs and Areas in District 9930 to consider taking on this exciting project in their own communities.

At the beginning of March 2019, Les Geraghty, a Rotary Club of Tauranga Sunrise member, raised the idea of creating a place for people to gather to celebrate their ethnicity and culture regardless of where they come from in the world. The idea was based on other countries that provide similar locations for people to visit, some of which are called Welcome Walls.

Only a matter of a short few weeks later, New Zealand was rocked by the Christchurch Mosque shootings. People were shocked that this could happen in our country, a country that enjoyed a geographical remoteness compared to many other parts of the world. 

What we witnessed in Christchurch after the shootings was the need for people to gather to share their grief over this horrific event. The question was - How to create a place here in Tauranga that is there for everyone to share and that reflects our diverse community?
The event in Christchurch on March 15th, 2019 helped crystallize the ‘This Is Us ‘project. 

The club held a meeting soon after the terrorist attack to discuss a response that was positive, practical and would build community. Members talked about how the Welcome Wall in Paris was a gathering place where people could be together and support each other. Australia also has a Welcome Wall.

A small group of Rotary Club members set out to explore creating a place for Tauranga that could be that gathering place, to give Tauranga a beating heart where people could see and celebrate their own culture and those of others.
After discussion with Tauranga’s Community Development Advisor for Welcoming Communities Haidee Kalirai and Simone Anderson from The Incubator Creative Hub, the concept of how people had journeyed historically to arrive in Tauranga, from early Maori to the present day was formed. The project developed around a carved and painted waka which conveys how we all journey through time, building and evolving our community, and that together we can do better if we know where we all come from and where we would like to go.

The concept of ‘This is us - he waka eke noa’, - people pulling together, also coincidentally matches Rotary’s theme for 2019-2020, ‘Rotary connects the World’, with Matariki presenting a timely opportunity to launch the project.
Matariki was traditionally a time that brought communities together to share and to learn from each other which is our hope for ‘This is Us – he waka eke noa’. 
‘This Is Us’ Project

He Waka Eke Noa