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Vegepods create whanaungatanga.

By Pauline Stewart.

It was when Freemasons as a whole rolled out an idea to go out to the community that the Whitianga branch took hold of the idea of offering veggie pods to the Junior sections of the local schools.

Richard Woodcock (known to his friends as Chocky), is a committed enthusiast regarding this project which he sees as children having the opportunity to learn by doing.

For Richard, this project invites him to draw on his Maori culture of Manaki tanga - the process of showing respect generosity and care; Whanau nga tanga - creating community connections between people; and Kaitiaki tanga – guardianship of the land and creation.

The project, led by the Freemasons Lodge in Whitianga, has involved small teams going into the schools, giving them the vege pod and the soil as well as gifting a voucher for the school to go to Hammer Hardware to buy seeds for their vege pod. This project creates a connection between the community, the children, the teachers, and nature.

“In many ways we are part of a parable - sowing seeds of generosity and goodwill and enabling children to develop their understanding of guardianship through their watering of the plants, weeding around their young plants, and working together watching nature at work, as they have to rely on nature for the growth,” says Richard.

It’s so rewarding to see children wanting to care for things and waiting patiently for the fruit and veges to ripen.”

The Whitianga Free Masons went to Hikuai School, Kauri Learners, Riverlea Preschool, and Te Whare Kura O Manaia School. “We are so lucky to have these small community schools,” says Richard. “The Free Masons are privileged to share this project with the school children; we are an organisation that is more in the background doing charitable work and being involved in philanthropy. We don’t look to be thanked.”

Caption: Richard visits Hikuai School to set up their vegepod project.

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