About two weeks ago I received a call to visit one of our homeless whanau from West Auckland, Jason, who was recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Jason was one of our success stories – having recently been housed. So the sadness at hearing about his diagnosis – just when he was getting his life together was a heavy burden for the wider homeless community out West – with many looking for hope and inspiration in each other’s journey towards getting off the streets. Although Jason had been told he had about 6 months to live, he died in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Meeting Jason that night in Sunnyvale is something I will never forget. He spoke quietly about the hardships he had endured on the street over the years and specifically those he had suffered as a boy. He was one of the many young Māori in this country to have been subjected to abuse while in State care and he acknowledged the huge impact this had had on his life. He was aware of the Human Rights Commission’s #neveragain call for an independent inquiry into the abuse of New Zealanders in state care and wanted it to go ahead to show how widespread it was.
He spoke about his love for his mokopuna. He wanted them to remember him through his love of whakairo which he had been actively practising through Taniwha-tales, a grass-roots project (which exists with barely any funding) run with heart and passion by the homeless community, nurtured and supported by West Auckland freedom sleeper Rob Mariner and passionate community-social worker, Grant Wilson.
There is much to be told about Jason’s story – particularly around his late diagnosis. But at this stage I will not be the one to put those words down on paper. It is up to the community and those who carry the knowledge of what happened to decide on the next steps that need to be taken in that space.
What I do want to do here though is honour Jason’s life. And I want to do so in the way that he requested when we met that night. That night he asked us to find a photographer who would be wiling to take photographs of his carvings to be included in a future book or collection for his whanau. A few days later, Shari and Sherrick (two of my wonderful friends and support crew) arranged for one of our NZ Greens Candidates who is a professional photographer, Julie Zhu, to come and meet Jason and take photographs of him with his carvings. A few of these are documented here, in memory of Jason
Moe mai ra e te rangatira ~ it was an honour to meet you in this world. May you rest in freedom and peace.