In her mid-twenties, Deidre Tavita was a shy mother of one who rarely ventured outside her Glen Innes, Auckland, home. After leaving school at 15 she took a number of factory, laundry and cleaning jobs to make ends meet. Opportunities in life seemed limited. Now, some 20 years later, with a degree in Early Childhood Education from UNITEC, she is Head Teacher at Apii Potiki, a community preschool in Glen Innes. She credits the HIPPY programme with helping her realise potential that she hadn’t known she possessed.
Deidre then became a HIPPY para-professional tutor, while she went through the programme with younger daughter Lasina. Being a tutor further pushed Deidre out the doors of her home and into her community. The professional development she received is still of value in her current role.

intergenerational change
HIPPY, which involves daily parent/child activities to develop children’s cognitive skills, led Deidre to spend more time with her daughter. This was a revelation: “The best thing was that HIPPY made me set aside time for my daughter and her learning every day. Probably I would have known that reading to her and teaching her was the right thing to do, but I don’t think I would have done it.”

Deidre was proud of her young daughters’ quickly emerging language skills and the love of books and reading that they both developed.

In time, a routine developed in the Tavita household around HIPPY activities, based at the kitchen table. This emphasis on routine, once embedded, continued throughout her daughters’ childhoods. Every day, when they came back from school, they would go straight to the kitchen table to start their homework. It continues to this day.

Tiana-Jay: “We sort of motivate each other. When I see my sister working, I think, oh I should be doing something too. It’s always us three at the kitchen table.”

The family dynamics and communication styles also changed dramatically throughout the Tavita family’s HIPPY years. As Deidre told an interviewer in 2003: “I am a better Mum since I became a HIPPY tutor. I have so much more patience, I listen, I don’t yell all the time. We talk in our house now – that’s down to HIPPY.”

Tiana-Jay similarly recalls HIPPY as a turning point: “I noticed a big change within my Mum – more encouraging, more happy, positive.”

Deidre’s coordinator, Margaret Fitzgibbon, seeing her potential, suggested qualifying as an Early Childhood Teacher. Deidre recalls: “Before HIPPY I didn’t have any confidence, didn’t have any self-belief. It took someone like Marg to see my potential and push me towards that training and ever since then I’ve just kept going.”

Deidre graduated from Unitec as an Early Childhood Teacher in 2008, and went on to work in various Early Childhood Education Centres throughout Auckland, eventually returning to her own community of Glen Innes, to work at Apii Potiki where she is Head Teacher.

There is a real sense of satisfaction for Deidre being back in her own community, where she started. She believes that her strong feeling for community, and empathy for the people within it, is something that she developed through HIPPY: “I used to be behind closed doors a lot and I didn’t have a lot to do with my community and then, when I became part of HIPPY it opened my eyes to the community, and I just thought wow, these people that I live among, they’re just like myself.”HIPPY child becomes MATES Junior mentor

Deidre identifies with the parents who are too shy to enter the classroom or talk to the teachers. “I’ve been a lonely parent, I’ve been one of those parents who waits at the car, or waits at the gate because I’ve been too afraid to go in and talk to anybody, the parents or teachers. I tell my teachers, make sure you go to the door and welcome those parents in. It’s our job to make them feel comfortable, because I was one of those parents once.”

Like her mother, Tiana-Jay also holds a strong desire to help others from a similar background maximise their potential.

She finds her current role as a MATES mentor to Year 8 students at Waimahia Intermediate School in Manurewa so rewarding that she is encouraging many of her friends to apply to be mentors: “I love it. Some of the children have really low self-confidence, so it’s really rewarding seeing them when we’re doing activities, being confident and positive about what they accomplish, even if it’s something small. They were really shy, and now they’re really happy when we come. You can see that they’re improving a lot. We’re paired, so I have a mentee. At first he had a lot of doubts about his reading and writing, but he’s just built up so much confidence since we started and it’s so cool to see.”

The compassion and empathy in Tiana-Jay’s words are echoed in her mother’s:

“I can’t save the world, but I can start with our children in our community. Letting them know that they can do things, that they are capable, confident children that can achieve anything they want to do.”


Adapted from Great Potentials Annual Report 2015-2016