Seven thousand, five hundred whānau in Hawke’s Bay live below the poverty line, says Sarah Reo, MNZM. 

“My dream is there are none.”

Sarah is co-founder of Cultureflow, a company specialising in te reo and tikanga Māori training, and more recently, co-founder of Orawa Ltd – a cultural leadership programme born in Hawke’s Bay. 

“We work with whānau who are looking for change and focus on the soft skills of leadership … team-work and compassion for example. Our network is wide reaching, so we invite different skillsets into the classroom, then work with employers re technical training.

“The marae/taiao are the classroom, and the model of teaching is predominantly via a te ao Māori lens.” 

Since October 2019, 150 people have been through Orawa, 55% have graduated and 98% of graduates have entered employment or higher education.

Discussions are happening with other hapū and iwi who have expressed interest in Orawa’s programme for their regions.

Alongside Orawa and Cultureflow, Sarah – BA/LLB Victoria University, 1999; Fulbright Scholar, 2014; MBA University of Hawaii, 2017 – plans to begin a PhD in 2022 looking at the place of social enterprise in uplifting communities. 

“How can we ensure our investments contribute to both the wellbeing of the community, including our environment, and the economy?” That’s the research question she will explore.

Sarah works and studies at high levels in business and governance and says she encounters difficulties being a woman in her roles, “everyday!” 

“But you laugh and smile (when you can), choose how best to respond, then move on.”

Two women in her community she looks to are Anglican Care Waiapu CEO Lucy Laitinen and Narelle Huata, Te Wānanga Whare Tapere o Tākitimu and The Kahurangi New Zealand Māori Dance Theatre CEO. 

“Both are inspirational thought leaders who push the envelope with humility and integrity.”

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