January 10, 2023

Te Kura-a-Wao.

Positively shaping young lives by reconnecting rangatahi to whenua in transformative ways.

The uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic almost derailed former at-risk worker Keelan Poi’s ambitions to create a way to have a positive impact on young people, through immersive and life-changing bush experiences on the idyllic East Coast of Aotearoa.

Each week-long programme at the Te Kura-o-Wao rural property in Ruatõria hosts 15 young people, with groups from all walks of life enjoying a break from their digital devices and usual distractions, and returning to nature as they face personal and team challenges designed to bring them out of their shell.


Emerging with newly discovered confidence and resilience, the transformative affect for many of the programme graduates is the reward for Keelan, fueling his bigger dream to create a year-round calendar of programmes with a full time staff.


By the time COVID-19 lockdown struck in March 2020, a lack of direction, concerns about funding and an enormous stretch on Keelan’s time were weighing heavily on the future of Te Kura-o-Wao until a catalytic donation from Clare gave him the reassurance that he could crack into his mahi without worrying about raising much-needed funds for the organisation’s development.


Funding from Clare has enabled two key goals to be realised, both which signal a new and exciting chapter for this unique charitable trust.


Trustees from the whānau are passionate yet unskilled in governance and capacity funding, motivating Keelan to seek help to ‘level up’ through specialist expert assistance to put in place strategic plans, health & safety and governance procedures needed to apply for funding at higher levels.  Chilly winter nights in tents or cosied up in the homestead are a memory now as two new cabins were also purchased with the remaining funds to accommodate programme guests.


With eight programmes planned between now and March 2022, four are fully booked out and demand is growing as positive experiences from Te Kura-o-Wao are shared amongst communities passionate about nurturing the next generation of Kiwis.