09 May 2017 - News
When Koni Rairoa returned to the Cook Islands, the country of her birth, in 2000 she admits learning the local language wasn’t a priority. Six years later she returned to Auckland, and as the years went by, the desire to learn Cook Islands Maori grew.
“When you’re younger, you take a lot of things for granted,” she says.
“But as you get older, you want to start piecing things together to gain an understanding of where you come from. I came to realise how important the language plays a part in it, particularly as I have cousins living there who are born and bred in the Cooks but have grown up unable to speak it.”
Koni’s desire was shared by her friend Lillian Arp. Both have a mixture of backgrounds. Koni’s mother is from Rarotonga, her father from Pukapuka, with her mother’s father being of Tahitian descent. Her European links stretch back to her great, great grandfather from Scotland.
Lillian is Samoan, lived mainly in Hawaii and has travelled throughout the Pacific islands. Her background is in tertiary education, training and development and publishing. Koni’s strengths lie in management and leadership. Both have experience in customer services, where patience and respect are essential.
Koni met the Pacific Business Trust team at an event where she gave a presentation. The Trust was impressed enough to assist her and Lillian with mentorship and connect them with like-minded business people.
“The Trust has provided us with courses at no cost to us, including one facilitated by KPMG (partners with Pacific Business Trust),” says Koni.
“It was a cool experience, very enlightening and informative.”
It has given them both the confidence to continue the path towards developing a language app. The courses have shed light on the many challenges when starting up a business, but both are committed and determined to see their idea become a reality.
“This project is still in the discovery stage, but we’re planning to begin the development stage before the end of the year, followed by the design then production of the app,” she says.
“We want to provide an intuitive piece of technology, customised by the user to empower them to speak their language with confidence, using it regularly in a seamless way.
“I can’t reveal too much more, but say that at a personal level, the journey has helped me discover what my passion is, and I see it helping so many other Pacific people who want to rediscover their language.”