Getting ‘In2’ wellbeing with holistic fitness programme

Issue: Volume 102, Number 12

Posted: 13 September 2023
Reference #: 1HAc6v

In Te Matau a Māui Hawke’s Bay, an in-school fitness programme is offering a compelling wellbeing experience for local tamariki.

9. Getting In2 wellbeing 01

Brothers Emeliano and Maarateina Fameitau, from In2it Tamariki, leading Irongate School senior students through a holistic fitness session focused on leadership and identity.

A fitness programme in Paharakeke Flaxmere began as a personal ambition for trainer Emeliano Fameitau, who says, “I became a personal trainer and found a lot of happiness. I felt like I needed to share that with others.”

He started offering free training to adults, dedicating extra hours beyond his role at a local gym. Bolstered by the acclaim of NZ Personal Trainer of the Year, and determined to find a new challenge, Emeliano partnered with his brother Maarateina.

“My brother is a youth worker and always had a dream to work in schools. With my background in personal training, I wanted to introduce fitness in schools, but didn’t have his level of experience working with young people.”

Together, they founded In2it Tamariki, an initiative that harnesses fitness as a cornerstone for holistic wellbeing and self-assurance among tamariki.

9. Getting In2 wellbeing 02

Emeliano and Maarateina Fameitau.

Fitness beyond exercise

At its core, In2it Tamariki is more than just fitness – it’s a holistic approach that nurtures physical health, mental resilience, character development, cultural empowerment, and self-esteem.

The programme’s kaupapa is described as four pillars – Leadership, Teamwork, Identity and Respect. These are woven into every facet of In2it Tamariki, to offer a comprehensive experience beyond physical exercise.

Emeliano’s philosophy echoes this. “The fitness is not enough, there has to be more that we can put onto the plate so that ākonga get a full meal.”

From fitness routines to excursions, interactive engagement and moments of reflection, the programme aims to equip ākonga with valuable life skills as well as physical wellbeing.

After a successful pilot run with Flaxmere Primary School, In2it Tamariki is now offered at Irongate School and set to expand to all four primary schools in Flaxmere, with support from the Ministry of Education’s Pacific Education Support Fund.

“Primary school is the focus, to prepare students for secondary school and build habits that become a healthy lifestyle to take into adulthood,” says Emeliano.

In his view, consistency is a teacher, so the programme operates three times a week, with a different focus on each of those days.

9. Getting In2 wellbeing 03

Irongate School students play a game with Pacific nation flags.

Leadership and identity

It’s a Monday when Education Gazette visits Irongate School to observe the programme in action with senior students for a session focused on leadership and identity.

After karakia and waiata, ākonga form two lines facing each another. Stretching the whole length of the studio space, the room fills with laughter and banter as they start an energising drill using listening skills and cooperation.

The group feels more cohesive as they end the drill and form a sharing circle. Each person – student, teacher, mentor and visitor alike – is asked to introduce themselves and invited to use their cultural structures and languages.

“They are given the opportunity to pass and in the first week, some students did, but as we build trust and they gain confidence, the number of ‘passes’ lowers. Today, there was no-one who said ‘pass’,” beams Maarateina.

Following on from this, ākonga form teams to play a game where they identify Pacific nation flags before being led outdoors to complete the session with group exercises and a closing circle.

During the closing circle, they each share something they enjoyed, and something they’d like to work on. Journals are also offered for ākonga to share their thoughts and overall personal journey with In2it Tamariki.

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The session finished with a closing circle.

Empowered voices

Flaxmere is a dynamic and expanding area. Officially a suburb of Hastings, it holds its own identity – one that is vibrant, distinctly Māori/Pasifika and reflected in its local primary schools.

Irongate School has a roll of 334 ākonga, 72 percent of whom identify as Māori and 24 percent as Pasifika (ERO 2018).

Similarly, for Flaxmere Primary School, 73 percent of their 451 ākonga identify as Māori and 22 percent as Pasifika (ERO 2019).

As a central component of their holistic wellbeing approach, In2it Tamariki supports ākonga to practise expressing their cultural identities.

“Just like how physical exercise builds muscle memory, this builds confidence in behaviour, so no matter where they are, they know how to introduce themselves,” explains Emeliano.

Students develop a sense of appreciation, not only for their own cultural identities and values, but that of their peers as well.

Year 6 Flaxmere student Kerry remarks, “Sharing about our cultures made me feel proud.” A key learning for classmate Sailimalo is “to respect other cultures and see what they do.” For Riven, “trying to learn my culture feels different now, I feel confident.”

The overall impact of In2it Tamariki on the wellbeing of its participants is profound. Year 8 Irongate student Neilson shares, “I feel more confident after doing this,” while classmate Kathy notes, “I feel more confident talking and I like to push myself with fitness.”

These sentiments are echoed by Year 8 classmate Sylvester who finds that the programme boosts his confidence to speak in front of others and to listen while others speak, an essential skill for his transition to high school.

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Flaxmere Primary School students at Hawke’s Bay ITF Taekwondo with instructor Ben Evans (on the right).

Exploring the uncharted

In2it Tamariki opens the door to experiences that ākonga might not have encountered otherwise. From excursions to local basketball courts and community centres, to engaging in martial arts or learning to play pickleball, the programme sparks curiosity to broaden horizons.

“One, two, three!” calls Emeliano. “Respect!” comes the unified response from Flaxmere Primary’s Year 6 students.

They are about to enter the Hawke’s Bay ITF Taekwon-do facilities where instructor Ben Evans introduces them to a squad of world champions, all tamariki like them, some from Flaxmere.

The squad demonstrates their medal-winning sequences and block-breaking techniques before taking ākonga through a typical warm up routine.

Ben motivates the group, affirming that “If you want to be a champion, you have to train like a champion. That’s what made this squad who they are today.”

At the end of the visit, the energy in the students has shifted palpably; they are chatty and bright but also physically settled and aware.

Because wellbeing comes in many forms, these excursions also serve as opportunities to cater for diverse learning styles and abilities among students.

“If we provide a variety of experiences, then there is something for everyone to find. The only rule is that they have to give one hundred percent, whatever their one hundred percent is,” says Emeliano.

Considerations of diverse abilities and learning styles come naturally to Emeliano and Maarateina who both have extensive personal experience with neurodiverse tamariki.

One student who Emeliano mentions as an example, can find it difficult to participate in large groups, “but last week at karate even though there were people around, he was right there giving it a go, because he found some value in the activity and the pace was just right for him.”

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Flaxmere Primary students take on Ben's advice: “If you want to be a champion, you have to train like a champion."

Mentors as catalysts

For any programme, mentors are at the centre of its success. Emeliano and Maarateina are fitness guides and also role models who embody the values they teach.

Raised in Flaxmere themselves, they have built into the programme, all of the support and experiences they wish they’d had as students.

Maarateina shares, “The look on some of the students’ faces when they walk in and see another brown face, we can tell that they’re already comfortable.”

Ākonga also recognise Emeliano and Maarateina as mentors who lead by example.

“Good leaders show respect, they respect us,” one participant affirms.

“They motivate me to keep going, they push us but they’re not strict,” says another.

Kaiako too, see value in the Fameitau brothers’ approach.

“They are not just teaching sports, but fitness and confidence. It fits well with our school goals and they relate to ākonga – they’re local and visible in the community,” comments Natalia Drummond, kaiako at Irongate School.

Day by day, into the future

The Fameitau brothers are determined to offer ākonga not only strength, but tools to navigate life’s challenges.

Their dedication to tamariki in their home town has made In2it Tamariki a remarkable example of wellbeing centred in growth and empowerment. Beyond physical fitness, the programme enables a comprehensive journey for ākonga by prioritising mental resilience, cultural pride, and interpersonal skills.

From the pillars of Leadership, Teamwork, Identity, and Respect to the eye-opening excursions, the impact of In2it Tamariki resonates far beyond fitness.

Perhaps Emeliano says it best when he asserts, “Investing in these students makes a better future. When they come out [of the session] smiling and laughing, that’s a payout, that’s a win!

“When they go to sleep at night, they can wake up knowing that because they had a good day yesterday, they can have another good day today.”

In2it Tamariki illuminates the potential of Flaxmere’s tamariki, with optimism in their communities to foster a generation of confident learners who embrace challenges as stepping-stones to their aspirations – day by day, into the future.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:30 pm, 13 September 2023

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