One kilo­me­tre for each of 668 lives lost

The Northland Age - - Local News -

In­stead of cel­e­brat­ing her 21st birth­day with the tra­di­tional party, Raglan woman Jes­sica Rose Collins set out to walk 668km over 21 days, to hon­our the 668 peo­ple who took their lives in New Zealand last year, and to bring at­ten­tion to tra­di­tional no­tions of heal­ing.

The 668km took her from Raglan to Kapowairua (Spir­its Bay), via “a few sig­nif­i­cant places”, the idea com­ing to her while study­ing Ma¯ori vis­ual arts at Massey Uni­ver­sity in Palmer­ston North, and af­ter sev­eral friends had taken their lives in re­cent years.

“The kau­papa for this se­mes­ter [at uni] is mana whenua and what this means to you. I took the per­spec­tive that the land has the abil­ity to give and re­ceive strength,” she said.

“Over this past year I feel I have lost some of my own mana, there­fore, through­out this jour­ney, I hope to re­claim it.”

She com­pleted her odyssey right on time, 21 (non­con­sec­u­tive) days af­ter set­ting off, car­ry­ing a ko (a tra­di­tional Ma¯ori gar­den­ing tool) with her, plant­ing 100 kawakawa seeds, wher­ever there was bless­ing to do so, and prac­tis­ing romiromi (tra­di­tional Ma¯ori mas­sage).

Most days she was ac­com­pa­nied by close friend Ash Hemi, from Tau­ranga, the pair at­tempt­ing to cover 20 to 40km a day. Their met­tle was well and truly tested in the very Far North though, not least thanks to the near hos­tile con­di­tions they en­coun­tered on Te Oneroa a Tohe on one of the windi­est days of the year.

The first stage from Ahipara to Waipa­pakauri Ramp was easy enough, but the weather be­came even more se­vere on the af­ter­noon stage to Hukatere.

The de­ci­sion not to wear footwear that day hadn’t helped, she and Ash un­ac­cus­tomed to blis­ters, with un­told me­tres of ban­dages and buck­ets of ice foot­baths help­ing them on their way.

Jess’ fam­ily and friends trav­elled from as far as Hamil­ton and Welling­ton to help her cel­e­brate her 21st birth­day in Kaitaia, and she proudly wore the ko­rowai her mother made as a 21st birth­day gift on 90 Mile beach.

Mean­while, the marathon had also been aimed at rais­ing aware­ness of and funds for Life­line, which was no longer el­i­gi­ble for gov­ern­ment fund­ing. The or­gan­i­sa­tion re­ceived more than 10,000 calls a month, she said.

“With­out any gov­ern­ment fund­ing, Life­line will strug­gle to keep up with de­mand,” she said, adding that she had set up a Givealit­tle page (Mana Whenua H¯ıkoi) via which peo­ple could do­nate to. A paint­ing of the ko, while hood­ies, T-shirts and framed prints, all bear­ing the Mana Whenua Hikoi logo, are also for sale on her Face­book page, pro­ceeds go­ing to Life­line.

PIC­TURE / SUP­PLIED

Jes­sica Rose Collins (left), wear­ing the ko­rowai made by her mother as a 21st birth­day gift, and best friend Ash Hemi, pre­par­ing to take on 90 Mile Beach on her walk to raise aware­ness of sui­cide and en­cour­age a re­turn to more tra­di­tional ways of heal­ing.

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