For six months young ones from Orakei Primary and St Joseph’s schools have been learning kapa haka, swimming, arts, music and cooking through Nga Taonga Mapuna based at the Orakei Marae.
Managing director Celess Eparaima says the programme has built children’s confidence, connected different cultures, and shown them there is a better life than one of crime and drugs.
"It shows them they have choices," she says.
"When I implement good behaviour and discipline, show them kindness and love, they end up showing it back to me."
She says the transformation in some children has been astounding.
"One used to have a tantrum, he would swear and we thought he was a no-hoper. But now he calls me auntie and he’s coming along great.
"The children’s manners have improved, and they are so helpful now."
Mrs Eparaima picks the children up in a van she bought to ensure they arrive safely.
"If the class grows any bigger I’ll have to get a mini-bus," she says.
The after-school programme follows on from the success of a holiday programme Mrs Eparaima runs.
"I saw a possibility of working alongside established holiday programmes that catered for children of Ngati Whatua.
"Mine is a day programme, not a live-in like the others, and it caters for Ngati Whatua and the community."
She says the programme has been a way for youngsters to immerse themselves in tika-nga Maori, to learn about other cultures and to make friends.
Last year they camped, stayed at the Orakei Marae, planted trees, slept over at Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World and visited the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
"We got to learn about marae protocol, had a powhiri, greetings in the wharenui, a hongi, pressed noses and shook hands to embrace one another and learn about our culture," Mrs Eparaima says.
One Korean boy didn’t want to leave.
A shy Pakistani youngster was befriended and in a week had broken out of his shell and "couldn’t stop talking".