Saturday, 18 June 2016

Building Relationships

By Vanessa Tait, 2nd year MDP student

In today’s society, there is such pressures to produce outcomes versus taking the time required to build trusting relationships first and seeing where that leads, see what it could look like – this takes a lot of time” -- Vanessa Tait

Vee (L) and Leah (R) with Academic Director, Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai - after being welcomed to the traditional territory of the Waikato-Tainui people

Offering tobacco to the Waikato River - Giving thanks for allowing us to share this space.
The relationships we have with one another, with the land and water are interconnected.  Having always dreamed of visiting New Zealand and meeting the Maori people, the opportunity came when I could choose a field placement anywhere internationally as a requirement for the Master’s program I am a part of.   

From the moment I was connected with the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development, the relationship began with the connection of one of my instructors who had visited the college before and had a connection with the Academic Director and another colleague of the college.  I had connected with the college via email introduction, followed by a few Skype meetings.   

As mentioned it takes time to build relationships, therefore in order for us to understand the projects and where it would lead we needed to be in their space and develop a relationship with the people, land and water of the area we would be working in.  

Building a connection with the Tree - the sweatpants say it all - "Respect"
Upon arriving at the college, we were introduced and welcomed into the college whanau (family) with a whakatau (welcoming) circle.  It was a familiar feeling to me to be in a circle and be welcomed in such a gentle way to our journeys ahead here in Hopuhopu, New Zealand.

Being the first time in another country, there was a need to connect and ground myself with the land and water.  It is important to build a relationship with all your surroundings not just the two-legged.  This part of the world is beautiful and to be connected to everything here and welcomed in such an amazing way makes this new relationship one that I know will last a lifetime.  

Back to my project, as I am introduced to the other entities connected with the college and welcomed and greeted I am humbled.  It is inspiring to see the amazing things that the Waikato-Tainui people are doing.  It is in this introduction that I am connected with two individuals that I will have the opportunity to learn from and share with on my project.  The project is focusing on community development and looking into social enterprises. 

I will stress again, it is important to build trusting relationships as you work with community.  It is within this relationship that the journey of the project will be guided and the outcome will be one that has been built together.  Keep in mind that the outcome is not the end product but the learning and collaboration along the way, remember this takes time and many times relationships have no end……

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