MOTHER and student artist Te-Ara-Hou Rikihana Mihikotukutuku credits a Māori visual art school for giving her the courage and strength to self-heal after years of sadness.
And she also gives the school a tiny bit of credit for helping her finally quit smoking.
“It all started in the EIT Tairāwhiti café when I met Tūranga Health’s Mere Waihi. She has a cool easy vibe, is easy to talk to, and well, I’ve been wanting this for years.”
Te-Ara-Hou, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Ruapani is working towards her New Zealand Diploma in Ngā Toi, Te Pitau a Manaia, at Toihokura School of Maori Visual Art and Design.
Every day she’s immersed in a wide range of art disciplines providing the opportunity to link her to past traditional practices while experimenting in modern formats.
One day this year she was also introduced to smoking quit coach Mere Waihi who was at Toihokura offering students Tūranga Health’s quit smoking programme.
For 31-year-old Te-Ara-Hou (who’s name means the new path) quitting a lifelong smoking habit was part of a self-healing journey that started after she left a life of domestic violence in 2020.
“The reason I came to Gisborne was to get better, be healthy, and break intergenerational cycles” says Te-Ara-Hou. “It took me ages. I needed to concentrate on being a mum, being by myself, and ditching bad influences. Quitting smoking just fitted with that.”
Being a role model to her young niece who now lives with her has also been a driver.
Mere Waihi says Tūranga Health’s quit smoking program is a kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (face-to-face) service to support whānau through their quit smoking journey. Alongside the weekly visits quit coaches can also offer whānau stop-smoking medicines or NRT products including nicotine patches, gum and lozenges.
Te-Ara-Hou was already on the road to becoming smokefree before she met Mere. But she was occasionally slipping into old habits and needed some support. Te-Ara-Hou isn’t ashamed to admit that Tūranga Health’s prize draw of $1000 for anyone who was smokefree after six weeks, was actually the main incentive to quit and it helped her stay focussed.
“I’ll admit…I had my eyes on the money! But it made sense to give up smoking. It’s all part of the whole healing and changing.”
Te-Ara-Hou didn’t win the money, but she did win freedom from cancer-causing nicotine, the continued love and respect of her children and niece, and a way to save $100 a week.
Mere says Te-Ara-Hou is strong and courageous. “She was always positive and very bubbly. She didn’t use any supporting patches, lozenges, or gum and because of that, and because she is a wāhine toa, I think long term she will stay smokefree.”
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