Naomi Reese of Karuwhā Trust | My Tauranga Homecoming Story
Naomi Reese grew up in Paengaroa – a rural village near Te Puke in the Western Bay of Plenty. After growing up in a tight-knit community with a farm/orchard as her backyard, she moved to Dunedin for university and embraced city life. Her career as a social worker and not-for-profit contractor began in the South Island but led her to Auckland, where she lived for six years.
In July 2018, she returned to her Tauranga roots, with a desire to spend more time with her whānau, to slow down, and to find a flexible way of life focused on “working less and growing more”. Workwise, she contracts as Project Lead for the cultural and historical haerenga (journeys) facilitated by Karuwhā Trust, a not-for-profit organization.
This is her story.
Naomi, can you tell us your career story?
I trained as a social worker. My first professional job was as a medical social worker at Dunstan Hospital. From there I moved to Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) and managed Aspiring Leaders’ Forum.
I seem to have found myself working in a niche of programme development and event management for charities. Following that job I worked for Zeal in their youth centre running their creative arts programmes and for the Brothers in Arms mentoring programme. I am very grateful to have had amazing jobs and to love Mondays!
What drew you home to the Bay of Plenty?
There were many elements – my whānau, wanting to have more space. Flatting life had expired for me. I wanted my own home and space for a garden and manaakitanga (hospitality).
What was it like coming home?
I felt like I could take a big breath and let the city stress go. I also made the choice when moving back to not work a 40+ hour week in the monetary label of the term. I wanted to have time to grow my own vegetables (grow more, work less!), to study and to have time to be responsive to kaupapa and the needs of my whānau. I wanted to be more flexible with my time.
What did you think moving to Tauranga would mean for your career?
It meant that I needed to shift to being a contract worker, ie. working remotely rather than being based in an office. Also, I would need to be more proactive as I was not known professionally here. So far, it has been fine.
I have a contract with Karuwhā Trust, which is something that evolved over time. I was first a participant in their incredible Hīkoi ki Waitangi, which happens over the annual Waitangi Day commemorations, then a volunteer and now it gets to be my job!
What does Karuwhā Trust do?
We seek to engage Aotearoa in a conversation about identity and history in order to help people know the story they are a part of. We do this by connecting communities through haerenga, story, and service. We facilitate journeys to sites of significance across Aotearoa in relationship with tangata whenua and assisted by historical narrators.
Next year we will be facilitating haerenga to the East Coast, Waitangi, and the Waikato. They are open to all ages and people with a desire to learn more. Our Facebook page has great updates.
What is your role and what do you value about it?
I am the kaiwhakahaere – the project lead of our haerenga. I really appreciate that we are grassroots and people-focused. We endeavor to work respectfully and value the process as much as the outcomes. I am passionate about a well-executed run sheet and being organized so that once a haerenga has commenced we can focus on the humans in front of us.
Where do you work from?
I have actually just joined The Kollective in Tauranga – a co-working space for not-for-profit, social enterprise, and charitable organizations. I was feeling isolated working from home. I’ve only just begun, however, I felt great there and it was nice to come home after a day of mahi.
My favourite lunch spot is the Falafel Metro. Being of middle-eastern whakapapa, that place feeds my soul and spirit.
What do you love about working and living in Tauranga?
I’m a big fan of being outside, so I love that quickly after finishing mahi I can be somewhere beautiful. I love walking – up the Mount and up Papamoa Hills. I also love being in the rivers and the ocean, going to yoga, gigs, and markets. It is easy to find places of refreshment. My people are amazing here – what is a place without awesome people eh?!
I appreciate that I’m still also close enough to Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) for various hui and events. Moving home has also helped me to choose to give time to continue to learn te reo Māori – there are some great places for learning in Tauranga.
How has Tauranga changed since you were a child?
Obviously, it’s busier. I think there are more festivals and music now too, which is great. My perspective of it has also probably changed. I grew up in a mostly Pākēhā world. Now my eyes are open to things going on in Tauranga within te ao Māori. There is a richness in that world that I hope can be increasingly recognized and respected within our city and woven together.
What do you see for your future in Tauranga?
Isn’t that the magic question? I think it will be much the same. I hope it is one that respects the whenua we call home and that I contribute positively even in a small way to those around me – all while wearing something fab 🙂
Gets You Thinking Doesn’t It?
No one can tell you when you’re ready for a change of lifestyle…but when you are, we’d love to have you in Tauranga!
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