Making Tracks # 4 - September 2012 

Kia ora te whanau

This newsletter is being released in exciting times for Tracks, as our links with Tides are growing ever stronger.

Soon we will come together under the Rites of Passage Foundation, which will support joint fundraising initiatives and shared administration. The programmes and events will retain their autonomy. While this newsletter is still mostly shaped by contributions from the Tracks community, we are looking forward to hearing more stories from our Tides sisters in future editions.

Ka kite ano, Maria Koch, editor



Rites of Passage April ’12 – a young man’s experience 

Floris Pontier 

I really enjoyed Tracks, I’m being honest in saying that it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I loved the feeling that I could say my thoughts and feelings, and no one would judge me and just listen to what I had to say and give me their full attention; also, the feeling of trust after only meeting them one day before was amazing.

Tracks got me to see what potential there is in me. It gave me the first step to becoming a man and letting go of some of those boyish traits and taking more control of my life.

Me and my dad always had a pretty good relationship and we got along well, but now my parents are giving me a bit more space and recognize that I've grown up from being a boy. I find it a lot easier to talk to my dad about my feelings and my thoughts, because now I can see that he will take in what I say and help were he can if I want it.

Overcoming the challenges that came my way helped me to see were I am in my life at the moment.


Spirit of Men weekend - Coromandel 

Niel Smith

The Coromandel core team

On our Spirit of Men weekend in May we had a group discussion, which was long overdue and resolved some keys issues allowing us to move forwards.

We agreed that using the Kauaeranga land at Shaun and Regan’s for ROPE events is too complicated at the moment due to disputes with the neighbours. We agreed to keep looking for other land to hold events.

We agreed that we could hold sweatlodges and fire circles on the land as they were not events and we could easily be considered as just friends of Shaun and Regan’s utilising their land as normal friends do.

We agreed that continuing with the monthly fire circles is a good idea. Certain members (Neil, Niel, Fraser and Derek) were keen to work on getting permission, through resource consents, to use the Shaun and Regan land if and when things improved between Tracks and Payton.  Jim offered to provide some funds.


If the world was the way it was meant to be

Jarvis Ambler


If the world was the way it was meant to be

There’d be no violence or poverty,

We’d never kill for sport or chop down trees   

If the world was the way it was meant to be. 


But we’d never live in comfort and ease, 

We’d have never sailed the seven seas,

We’d be forced to live with ticks and fleas

If the world was the way it was meant to be.


And you think that would be misery,

That we would have no hopes or dreams,

That we would live like ants and bees

If the world was the way it was meant to be.


That is not so, we’d still be happy,

Living lives of simplicity, there’d be no wars,

We’d all be free to live our lives in harmony,

Just look around and soon you’ll see

The world can be the way it was meant to be.


Sharing the stories that matter

A few words from the research into Tracks Rites of Passage

by Jamie Howell

Kia ora,

I am pleased and relieved to announce the completion of the Tracks research project. After three years of work, the thesis was sent in July to academic reviewers and I await their comments. Writing a thesis that meaningfully engaged with the heart work happening at Tracks has been the challenge of my life to date. I can smile about that now.

Here are some tentative conclusions from the final chapter.

The interviewed Tracks participants are without exception supportive of the programme. They have described their experiences in glowing terms. This is not surprising as they are all people who have shown their support for the programme: all the young men who were interviewed have returned to support the programme by acting as young leaders and all the adults have supported their sons in this action.

At the same time as helping the young men, Tracks helps fathers develop the emotional confidence needed to be on the “bridge of adolescence” (Lashlie 2005) with their sons. The process brings fathers and sons together in a powerful way.  It gets them involved in the lives of their sons at the important transition between childhood and adulthood.

Tracks establishes an intentional process to help mothers let go of their sons.

Tracks provides a supportive way for young men who do not have fathers in their lives to work with their emotions, providing opportunities for mentoring within the event and beyond.

The rituals at Tracks have had a positive impact on the young men. The liminal experience was found to be instrumental in the development of an expanded perception of self-identity. Life-changing perspectives may be intentionally developed through liminal experiences when supported by community and appropriate rituals. These conditions may enable a dependent child to cross the threshold into the larger perceptive world of independence and interdependence.

Tracks offers an intentional and organised way to connect to the mythological passages. Based on the ideas that there are unconscious forces at work within the human psyche (Jung 1953; Campbell 1993; Bond 1993; Stevens1997), Tracks provides constructive ways to work with these forces, as another aspect of what some term emotional intelligence.”  

Huge thanks to all the participants, supervisors and the help I received from the University of Canterbury. Learning never stops, no answers just bigger questions.

Ka kite


A father’s story

Andy Jeffs

I attended the ROPE (Rite of Passage Event) in January 2012. It wasn't my first event, and it definitely won't be my last. This one was different and delved a little bit deeper for me into what a Rite of Passage is. The point of difference for me was that I attended with Jordan, my step-son. He had known about Tracks since my first involvement in 2006. Over the years I had become very proficient at diverting and deflecting the questions from him about my time at Tracks events.

No longer did I have to hide the full picture, Jordan was there at his rite of passage, experiencing it all for himself.

I witnessed a boy I have known for many years blossom into young manhood. I witnessed a change in him, a greater confidence in his stride. I admired the way he held himself and spoke, the way he stood his ground in times of fear, challenge and uncertainty. I saw my young man relax, have fun and be himself. What a gift it was to witness all this.

In all the events I had been to previously there had been aspects of the boys' rite of passage that I hadn't been able to fully participate in. In my role as a father at this event that all changed. To have the chance to share with my son deep truths of mine and heart-felt emotions toward him was a jewel of the event for me. By standing and speaking my truths I know he saw parts of me that he never knew existed. I also saw parts of Jordan that I knew where there, but saw them bigger and truer. At times I found this to be challenging,  but, after all, that is why I attend events. As always after the challenge comes the sweet, sweet  fruit of fulfillment.



A young man returns to Tracks

Ruben Maas

Returning to Tracks after six years was a great gift for me by seeing the familiar faces and meeting new ones.

I had left as a Tracker assisting and supporting one new boy during his rite of passage.This time I took part assisting a home group and being a role model for the new boys and Trackers. It was in a way coming home after a long time not being present and then arriving back to people that have become a second family in my life.

I have seen a lot of the world and met many people, mainly men due to working out at sea, and I shared and listened to many stories. But so far I have not found a place like Tracks, where I can express my true feelings and emotions without having to worry what people might think of me.

For me and my family a lot has happened over the last two years. I lost my father to cancer; a person I learned so much from vanished and has become a memory. In a way I can’t describe, this is still is a painful subject to talk about for me, but at Tracks people listen to my story and have respect for my tears. It’s like a brotherhood to me, a connection and relationship that will never get weaker, only stronger.

I am looking forward to the next time I can join an event to share me energy, experience and stories with the new boys, young men and elders.


Reflecting on 10 years with Tracks 

Stephen Evans  

It is almost ten years ago since I took part in my first Tracks event, but I still remember the dramatic way it inspired me. I was still trying to motivate myself to get into teaching after feeling disenchanted with the education system. After my first Tracks experience I began to have a deeper understanding of the vulnerable, but powerful space of transition in all aspects of people's lives, and I saw the importance of relationships for educating and empowering young people in a more holistic way.

Last year I became deputy principal of an all-girls residential school for people with specific learning needs. I have enjoyed incorporating into my school week some of the relationship-building rituals I experienced at Tracks.  Evidence-based research supports the value of relationships, so it was easy to predict that supporting restorative practice to solve student conflicts would be effective, as people have the time to be truly heard, understood and not judged. They are empowered to solve the problem for themselves and develop empathy for others.

I believe being grateful is an important practice and I always love the honouring part of Tracks when I do a rites event. At my school I created ‘The Queens of the Week’ during our weekly assembly time. The girls hold a tukutuku stick and give honourings to a few individuals.  They love to do this and I enjoy the depth at which some girls speak.  For me this keeps a bit of Tracks alive with what I do, and I know it helps to enhance the girls' social skills and relationships.

Lots of love to all whanau, keep your fires burning.


Lessons learned at the Wilderness Awareness School

Steve Porteous


I recently spent six weeks in the USA. The first three weeks were with Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, Washington. Week one was a week-long survival journey into the high desert east of the Cascade Mountains.

Just by its nature, this was an initiation and taught me some powerful lessons about what my body is capable of. From this I gained an incredibly deep understanding of my relationship with the environment.

My second week was in service to W.A.S in and around their land. During that week I was fortunate enough to meet a few of their elders, who effortlessly took me under their wings and tried to 'fatten me up'. (I was certainly a little skinny after a week of wandering with not much food.)

The third week was a very focused week diving deep into the art of mentoring - how do we capture and enthral all ages into the deliciousness and vastness that is nature. All of this time was pro-active towards creating stronger communities.

Then, over to New Jersey and Tracker School. Here I was shown more skills of movement in nature and of working in teams. A challenging week, both physically and mentally, as I found the underlying cultural story to be a 're-active ' one. Again some powerful lessons and clarity gained.

In my final weeks in New Paltz (up-state New York) I hooked up with Wild Earth. This not-for-profit group has been running holiday camps and teen rites of passage for many years now. Most of the camps are run by young people, 17-25 year-olds, that have grown up in the Wild Earth culture and are keen to be of service to others and have a deep respect for elders and all those around them. It was so exciting to see how empowering this can be for a township and the wider community.

Through all my journey I shared the story of Tracks and Tides and I know that this inspired many and gave me a common ground on which to meet people in conversation and a feeling of tribe.

I'm keen to talk in depth about any of this journey if anyone wants to call me or capture at the next ROPE.


Rites of Passage Foundation Trust

I am very thrilled to announce the founding of the Rites of Passage Foundation Trust, which brings Tracks and Tides together. We have talked about it for a long time and worked hard to make it happen. So, this spring it finally becomes official. The Rites of Passage Foundation will join the forces of Tracks and Tides. By no means does this imply that Tracks and Tides will lose their own unique identity. It just means that we can officially share resources and work together.

Our joint vision is to "empower young men and women and work towards healthy families and supportive communities". We do this amongst other activities by providing nature-based, community-led rites of passage for girls and boys. We have been doing this successfully for the past ten years. We are currently looking at expanding our program to cater for a wider range of ages and we are looking forward to another successful season.

So far, we have been able to sustain ourselves financially with your support for which we are very grateful. However, getting funding for this work in times of economic crisis becomes more and more difficult. As an organisation we rely heavily on external funding. Donations, no matter what size are as always most welcome.

Stef Jongkind, Chairperson Rites of Passage Foundation


The ROPE of Man

The ROPE (Rite of Passage Experience) organically symbolizes the umbilicus – the cord that joins mother and child at birth, which is cut then. We all have a belly button that reminds us of our birth, our being born; the profound biological connection between mother and son.

This ROPE also strongly joins father and son. And everyone who becomes a part of the boy’s life, in a small or a big way, has a hand on that ROPE. It’s what he learns from and holds on to for safety and for spiritual sustenance.

We need help holding that ROPE, guiding his journey.

During those critical years as the young man is in transition from his childhood, how a father holds the rope, or not, is of great significance.

Every day, every moment is a vital opportunity for his encouragement, for his acknowledgment. For us to honour who the young man is becoming, to speak it out clearly, to reward him with responsibility and service, to acknowledge the employment of his genius, and to notice his skills and talents.

Such a skilful and demanding task.

Jim Horton 


Father shadow

How we hold that rope, and how tightly, is a critical part of parenting – too tightly and we can restrict our children's growth, too loose and we can expose them to experiences beyond their ability to cope in a good way. Parenting, conscious living parenting, is one of the most important tasks in today’s world. And it always has been.

Overbearing parenting shows up in subtle ways – over-caring (helicopter parenting – always present – always hovering) and over-protecting limit experience beyond the parents’ living and allowing.

It’s complex, important and challenging.

This, I believe, is why the indigenous, older peoples - by choice or force of circumstances - lived in communities, or tribes, in shared ways of being together. This style is anathema to the western way of living (for want of a better name), where nuclear family is almost a myth (four out of five have come apart by the time the kids have hit their teens), and true living community is unknown or misunderstood.

We need help from others who know us well. If we have family around us we may be fortunate in having useful support in caregiving. Such that the children hear some other stories and have experiences of other human beings besides their parents. Parents have many challenges in today’s world. Money, relationship, food, housing, time for work, play, gambling, booze, internet, porn – I could fill the page and you would still think of challenges not mentioned.

We need help. I came with my family from Canada, with my partner and two boys six and 14, looking for the next place that “felt right”. It took us 18 months and several countries and lots of time on planes, but we found an intentional community where folks sat around with their kids and tried to talk to each other in a good way - land, not much money, time, basic living, many skills and good education, fierce determination to do “it”  differently. Of course we all had another definition of what ‘”it” was.

The children flourished in the milieu of the people’s interaction – perhaps some not so good, but mostly strong, opportunities for learning from everyone, older people as well.  And it is not easy. However, community celebration and working together can be hugely fun and productive.


The Constant Gardener project – appeal for donations

Maria Koch

People who have been touched by our events know best what it takes to offer a deep and lasting rite of passage experience – beginning with conversations with families in the lead-up to a rite of passage, the actual event itself, follow-up with mail-outs, as well as ongoing support for the young people and their whanau.

We count ourselves fortunate to have the team and financial support to run high-quality programmes, and we are very grateful to the many generous people who contribute their time, energy and finance towards this work.

The next step is to further develop the pre- and post-event work, and this is for what we require more support.

From conversations with young people and their families we understand that many of them would appreciate ongoing support after an event to help them better integrate their insights and learning in their lives at home, school and social environment. The Master’s thesis by Jamie Howell also highlighted the potential value of such support.

We are currently developing a new ‘constant gardener’ project with exactly this support in mind. Subject to funding, we are looking at creating a new role for one or more of our trained facilitators to stay in touch with families and young people, offer opportunities for meeting again as a group, fire circles, community engagement activities and special team building/leadership events. This project is still in the design phase, so any of your ideas would be very welcome. After all, this is about building community.

As mentioned above, we require funds to turn this idea into reality and we are appealing to our supporters for donations towards this project. This could be in the form of a one-off donation to givealittle, or a regular contribution of any amount. Our bank details are:  03 1711 0060557 00 Tracks Trust, Westpac Takaka.

Thank you for your support



Tracks spring tramp

Join us for a weekend wilderness experience, welcoming anyone who has been to at least one Tracks event (Rite of Passage or training weekend) – young men, fathers, facilitators – even elders!

This will be a great opportunity to spend time in nature with old and new friends, revitalise, reconnect, re-vision.

We’ll take some walks, have fire circles, camp out (with mattresses), play and hold a ritual at some point.

Where: Kahurangi National Park, starting and finishing at Flora Car Park up the Graham Valley near Motueka.

When: 2-4 November, Friday afternoon till Sunday afternoon.

Cost: $25 for food, $25 to $50 donation to Tracks Trust and the facilitation team.

Details: Duncan Henry (Tracks elder) 03 545 8420; 027 270 642;



Network notices

Spring weekend for men – Labour Weekend

This weekend continues to offer men the opportunity to step outside our existing lives, lives that may define and even limit us.  Learning from past experience, we’ll use both sharing circles and open space to allow each one of us the opportunity to claim what we need for ourselves. There will be opportunities to offer processes, facilitate a discussion on a topic that is real for you, walk in nature (hopefully up onto the Mt. Robert range), or simply take time out. This is not a workshop, with our intent being that we co-facilitate our time together. It’s in the kitchen preparing food for others where we begin growing our community of men, in our circles where we deepen our connection, and in our play where we celebrate as men.

The weekend will be held at Rotoiti Lodge, St. Arnaud, Nelson Lakes. We’ll connect over an evening meal, Friday, 19 October 2012, followed by an introductory circle, sharing our intentions for our time together. Our weekend will evolve from that process and will complete at 1 pm Monday, 22 October 2012, when we’ll all head home.

Accommodation will be $30/night. If money is tight, talk to me and we'll support your attendance. Bring your own breakfasts and food to share for combined lunches and dinners, which we will prepare communally.

Do come prepared to take responsibility for what you need and to participate fully. Be ready to embrace the richness of a shared experience with open-hearted men. If it feels right, please actively spread the word and possibly invite another man to come with you.


For more info contact - Murray, T: (03) 546 4927, E:; or Roy, T: (03) 544 2090, E:



 Democratic schooling

 For more info visit