From dress clothes to muddy shoes….

Hi guys! Joy and Leona here.

Today was full of learning and muddy shoes. We started our day at a Maori clinic – Te Manu Toroa. They all graciously let us enter their environment and taught us about their healthcare system and practices. They welcomed us with a Powhiri. This is where the elder Maori of the group welcomes us in the Native Maori language and then he and the other Maori sing a welcome song. We then sang a song in return named My Heart Belongs in Michigan written by Stephanie Sabatine and MaryAnne Stott from the LSSU Native American Center. We also gave them gifts including the Bay Mills Tribe flag and a medicine wheel of the local Native American tribe in the Soo. Next, we participated in the Hongi, where the Maori line up and we shake hands and touch noses to greet each other. Lastly, the Powhiri was closed with a blessing.

It was so interesting to learn that Maori people take ownership of their healthcare, and create programs tailored to the healthcare needs of their people. Their healthcare focus is truly based on a holistic view, including spiritual, biological and behavioral health. This was an experience that not many groups have the opportunity to explore, and we are thankful to Doug (our Kuaka guide), who arranged this for us.

After leaving the Maori Te Manu Toroa clinic we ate lunch at the park and changed clothes before heading out to give back to the environment. We walked through a restored rainforest and learned about each generation of plant life within the forest. These were part of a program created to provide mental wellness to the nature connection.

Each of us were then given a 6 year old tree that would eventually grow to be over 50 meters tall and can live over 1,000 years. We then carried these trees onto the bus with us and transported them to an open wetland where they would have room to grow. We thought it was so funny that the cars we were passing wouldn’t have the slightest idea that the bus next to them had 18 trees on board. Once we arrived, we dug holes deep enough to cover the roots and potting soil and then ensured they were securely in the ground by covering the roots with the dirt we had removed. Some of our classmates went further into the area to plant their trees and ended up with mud splashed on their legs and soaking wet shoes! Even though we were muddy, we all had fun helping each other plant our trees as part of this wetland restoration.

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