HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Woman of the Month

Congratulations to our woman of the month Mrs Rongo Mate Preston. Born the second eldest of GerogeTurua and Mata Short’s fourteen children Rongo has many fond memories of growing up in Titikaveka surrounded by the warmth of all her family. For the first 12 years of her life Rongo was raised alongside her brother and cousin by their Great Grandmother, a woman who would consequently serve to enrich and shape her life in the many years to come. Teaching her Great granddaughter the valuable lessons of survival Rongo still remembers to this day huddling in the swamps fishing for Tilapia and Kokopu, making a meal of kumara leaves and rendered pork, collecting rori at low tide and rationing their 12oz tinned meat for that week’s meals. “That’s what I knew growing up. When we had chicken it meant that we had to go chase the chicken, catch it, bring it to mama, she would clean it, prepare it and that would be our meal for the day. That’s how we lived, we weren’t spoilt, but we knew how to look after ourselves, how to survive.” For Rongo Preston the pungent smell of fermenting rori simultaneously tugs at her senses and heart reminding her of a time less complicated and free. When she returned to the care of her parents Rongo learnt the art of horticulture and economics planting tomatoes and peanuts for the market to generate an extra source of income to feed the fourteen hungry mouths that lined the dinner table. At one
point Rongo clearly remembers sitting down for dinner at her old home stead and being astounded at the number of family present, “I counted 27 people that night! There were my siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews. That was
one big pot of food and one loaf of bread to feed us all, but that’s how close we were growing up.” Laughing
Rongo is reminded of the tricks one would have to pull to survive dinner in the Short household, “We would sit
at the table and when we are eating we talk to our brothers or sisters,” she says explaining the situation, “But as
soon as they turn the other way you grab their food off their plate and put it on yours,” she mimics with lightning
speed, a true opportunist in the making. Being deeply rooted and established in the Titikaveka village Rongo started out as a member of the youth club where she and her other members not only fundraised to build the first
Kent Hall of Titikaveka but would also perform our cultural Cook Islands dances aboard the Mariposa and Monteray tourist boats that docked in Rarotonga. “We always looked forward to it, we would get ready and be transferred out to the boats.” Regardless of the weather Rongo would dance mirroring the swaying of the waves to and fro, “You know the most memorable time of the event was the kaikai,” she blushes, “we didn’t eat those kinds of food at home, apples or ice cream.” However with the dereliction of the original Kent Hall that saw its demise
in the mid 90’s Rongo Preston was appointed Secretary of the rebuilding of the Kent Hall that stands solid to
this day, “It was a lot of work but to me it was very rewarding to see the building up again and the uniting of the
community.” Rongo has been blessed with four children who in turn have given her nine grandchildren to dote over. Tere Carr, who like her mother has 1 daughter and 3 boys, Paul who is happily married in southern France with 2 daughters of his own, John who resides in Melbourne with his 3 children, and last but not least her “baby” and youngest son who is set to tie the knot in January. One of the things Rongo has lived her life by and continues to tell her children she shares with me too, “remember the creator in the days of your youth, when the evil days come and you say I have no pleasure, well they always cut me off at this point,” Rongo laughs reciting her children, “Mum you don’t have to keep going on! But it is a great reminder that wherever they are, whatever they are doing God is always watching them. That’s my cry from my heart to the Lord that he continues to look after them.” Acknowledging her nomination Rongo gives a special thanks to Mama Tuki and her team for the selection, “the Lord has double blessed me in the same week I will be honoured with Woman of the Month and also be invested as a Mataiapo. It’s a big challenge but for me I feel proud.” “I accept this WOM title with pride on behalf of the other mamas, women and grandmothers who I pray will also have the chance to receive the honor that I have today that is my prayer.” You are welcome to celebrate with us the achievements of Our Woman of the month Rongo Mate Preston in an evening of recognition held at the Aquarius Hotel on Wednesday the 25th July commencing at 6.30pm. -Maria Tanner

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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