Jared Hiakita (Ngāi Tūhoe), whose work in supporting marae, kura and kōhanga on their Para Kore Zero Waste journey in the Far North, has been recognised by the Muhammad Ali Center in the United States for his contribution to bettering the environment by delivering waste minimisation and environmental education and training to the indigenous people of Aotearoa.
The award also recognises his co-founding of the organisation Paenukurangi, which, in the midst of a housing and climate crisis, created a home 10 times more affordable and sustainable with the greater vision of intergenerational land restoration and food sovereignty.
"I've come to terms with the idea that this award is not about me," Mr Hiakita said last week.
"I alone cannot claim this award as a reflection of my own accomplishments, but see it as an acknowledgement of all the people who have helped shape the person I am today, and all the kaupapa that has contributed, and continues to offer me nourishing experience — Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini: My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but the success of a collective," he said.
He will be in Louisville, Kentucky, alongside five other inspiring rangatahi from Syria, Ghana, Gaza, Colombia and the USA, on Thursday next week to receive the award.
Donald Lassere, president and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center, said each of the recipients was amazing, purpose-driven individuals who inspired others with their remarkable accomplishments, abilities and courage to affect lasting change.
"It is our hope that by using Muhammad Ali's principles as the backdrop for these awards we can help propel action by others to solve real-world problems, and to also shine a spotlight on Muhammad's humanitarian legacy," he said.
Jacqui Forbes, kaihautū mātua for Para Kore, was delighted that Mr Hiakita was to be recognised.
"It's amazing to see Jared Hiakita recognised by the Muhammad Ali Center for his dedication and leadership in the field of environmental education," she said.