One kilometre for each of 668 lives lost
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.
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.