That’s Who We Are

I teach performance skills to young people (in their 20’s) with intellectual disabilities

This time last week I was getting messages from some of them

“I am in Lockdown. I am at the mall. I am ok”

“ Mum is coming when she can. Some people are looking after me”

“ we have locked the doors and shut the curtains. I am ok”

“Hi Fiona R u ok?”

“can we talk about this at course next week?”


For students who have been through the earthquakes that tore their homes and city apart, for students who watched our Port Hills rage with fires and who have learnt to navigate this broken city with it’s ever changing road cones, bus routes and road closures.

These people, some of whom seriously struggle with changes in routine, being confined, processing abstract concepts, anxiety and seizures.

These young people who have grown out of a school setting and moved into adulthood, sometimes moving out of their homes, trying to gain confidence in independence.

All thrown into the same situation as the rest of the city ; fear, confusion, horror, – lockdown.

I was messaging them back

“You’ll be fine”

“Try to relax and let people take care of you”

“Mum will get there as soon as she can”

  • even as I had no real idea when or how this would end.

And then their next messages;

“I am Ok. ‘Together we are strong”

“i remember together we are strong”

“we have been saying that together we are strong”

“together we are strong. That’s who we are”

Quoting back the lyrics at me, finding comfort in them.

Back in class this week they wanted to talk a little about what happened.

Some sang for the victims, others told stories of where they were or people they knew who had been affected,

But they also wanted to be positive and sing our Arts Integrated song.

And they sang it louder and harder than ever! – it was wondrous, powerful and very moving.

“We are the Music!

We are the Song!

We’re integrated!

Together we are strong!

That’s who we are!…”

and so it continued through verses and chorus with some hip hop moves, some heart beats and jazz hands to finish. So good.

And indeed all week, the commentary and response have raised issues of identity.

Thats not who we are,

This is, sadly, who we are,

Is this who we are?

That’s not how we do it

That’s how we do it

Who Are We?

I am so very proud of who we have been this week.

Led by a young, vibrant, authentic, inclusive, powerful, steely wahine toa, we have countered every headline relaying the appalling news, with headlines acknowledging the grace and strength of “our” response

Young people breaking into haka, gangs uniting to protect and serve, laws being changed, people vowing to change ; our innocence gone, but also some ignorance.


It’s been a really tough week and the tears keep coming, for the victims, their stories, their families and their stolen futures.

Yet we’ve also seen positive action and genuine efforts to reach out rather than push away.

And on a personal level I’m so gratified that in their moments of fear, our students could remember and hold on to something that would help them

“We are the music

We are the song

We’re Integrated

Together we Are Strong

Thats Who We Are

That’s Who We Are

Shine Like A Star

Coz That’s Who We Are”

2 thoughts on “That’s Who We Are

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