A big man with a big heart and a massive legacy; Whakahawera Rere Kite Pakanga Kerr's more than two decades of service have made him a cherished member of the Tūranga Health team.
Known as Libby – after his uncle was wounded in Libya on the day of his birth in 1941 – he’s been with Tūranga Health from its early days and chief executive Reweti Ropiha says he made his mark right from the start.
“Libby was first at Tūranga Health as someone who could work with older males,” says Reweti, who in 1999 convinced Libby to be kaumātua for the fledgling health organisation. “He was someone they could walk their health journey alongside, someone who could be a confidant and give tāne confidence.”
Libby (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri, Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki and Tūhoe) spent much of his working life at the freezing works but by the time he joined Tūranga Health, he’d already spent a dozen years forming views on shortcomings in the health system.
In 1985 he’d become a security guard at New Zealand's newest health facility, Gisborne Hospital, where he saw things both good and bad.
On the “good” side, he enjoyed spending time in Ward 11, talking and interacting with mental health patients. On the “bad”, he often felt tangata whaiora were not treated with the care and consideration they deserved.
With that as his driving force, Libby's redundancy some years later was turned into a positive when he used his experiences to work with the Health and Disability Commission.
Then he joined Tūranga Health where, as well as serving as kaumātua, he spent six years overseeing the Vanessa Lowndes Centre for whānau with physical and/or mental health issues.
And throughout the years he’s been a passionate family man . . . he and his wife of more than 50 years, Mereaira, have eight children, 12 grandchildren, and a growing number of great-grandchildren.
During that time Libby has had his own health problems but Tūranga Health chair Pene Brown says that has not stopped him from making a huge contribution to his community. “His knowledge of people and who their families are, is immense. This aspect is of enormous help to all his Tūranga Health colleagues and especially, Reweti.”
Reweti says Libby opened doors “and gave confidence back to whānau who’d previously had a bad experience in health.”
“And he has always been very comfortable in any setting . . . when then-Prime Minister Helen Clark came here once, Libby was the only person she knew.”
When 28-year-old Reweti Ropiha bounded into Tūranga Health in 1997 he took over a shy fledging company with an opening cash balance of $300 and fewer than 10 clients.
Recently returned from four years of overseas travel, and feeling enlightened, the Rongowhakaata/ Ngai Tamanuhiri tāne was ready to apply himself to new challenges.
“I had a sense that there was an opportunity there, not just for myself, but for the rohe.”
He never dreamed that 22 years later he would be leading a company with a $5 million budget, employing 65 people, and enhancing the lives of over 3,000 whānau every year.
“That’s been half of the attraction of this company, it doesn’t stand still. We’re always looking for new opportunities. I can tell you this is not a space of boredom.”
Reweti grew up in Manutuke, a whāngai son of Wikitoria and Ratu Ropiha. He went to Manutuke School, Lytton High School, and has completed a double degree in politics and business and a Master of Business Administration through Waikato University.
He credits his parents with teaching him about the importance of living within Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri and the connections with whānau.
“It was a simple upbringing, you were there for others and we all shared. We helped people we didn’t necessarily know, but on mum’s and dad’s orders. We followed their approach to common sense. I craved that when I was overseas, and I wanted to help participate in, and restore that, when I came back to Gisborne and started at Tūranga Health.”
Tūranga Health was created at a time of colossal change in the health sector - when community level organisations were playing a greater role in primary health care delivery.
Across the country Māori health providers were flourishing. In Gisborne, Te Runanga o Tūranganui-a-Kiwa created Tūranga Health as its health arm. It was a new kid on the block and very much in the shadow of neighbouring Māori health provider Ngati Porou Hauora.
"“Everything was evolving and we moved very tentatively,” remembers Reweti. “The space was shifting from centralised power bases, to one of using other approaches in the delivery of health services.”
“Tūranga Health saw this as an opportunity not to replicate what was existing, but to embrace an approach of wellbeing that would include “kanohi ki te kanohi”, taking the services to the whanau in whatever setting and introducing a wider holistic lens.”
In 1998 Reweti and his small team took the cash-strapped Vanessa Lowndes Centre, where Reweti had once worked, under its wing. By now Tūranga Health had 150 people on its books.
Then it launched the extraordinarily successful Kaumātua Programme.
“Our approach for health service delivery for older people was about keeping whānau in their home for as long as possible. We knew we were only part of the jigsaw, but we saw the need for a place for pākeke to congregate and thrive in the space of wellbeing.”
The Kaumātua Programme is a monthly marae-based gathering for the elderly with a holistic health focus. Transport, activities, service presentations, service connections and socialisation are provided for the region’s precious taonga.
Over the next four years Reweti oversaw Tūranga Health develop its unique approach and style of operating.
In 2002 Tūranga Health took the first in a series of steps that would see it become the large-scale proficient business it is today. It teamed up with two general practice associations (Pinnacle and First Health) to form Tūranganui Primary Health Organisation (Tūranganui PHO). This model was unique in that the owners were two independent practitioner associations and an iwi health provider.
Aware that the PHO needed a powerful chief executive, Reweti brought in the expertise of the region’s senior expert in primary health, Keriana Brooking, from Tairāwhiti District Health Board.
“That was a bold move!” remembers Tūranga Health chairman Pene Brown, who along with Reweti has watched Ms Brooking’s rise in the health sector to become a Deputy Director-General at the Ministry of Health.
Nowadays Tūranga Health boasts a general practice in Te Karaka with 1520 registered patients, over 20 onsite workplace wellness programmes, 1 GP, 12 nurses working alongside whānau in their homes, dozens of community-based health wellness programmes, and 3000 people on its books.
Always one to play down his own involvement, Reweti is pleased that five fellow staff, many he interviewed himself, are being acknowledged for their 20 years of service to Tūranga Health. “This is a chance to celebrate them.”
Reweti wants to acknowledge the good deeds of the many who have contributed to Tūranga Health’s journey. “There have been countless efforts and contributions - not just my own. We can all stand proud of Tūranga Health.”
When asked about the future of Tūranga Health, the 49-year-old father of three boys, says the windscreen is bigger than the rear vision mirror.
“More than ever Tūranga Health continues to unlock responsive approaches to whānau demand, whereby staff can continue to provide real time care in the communities and homes of whānau.”
Health leaders on Reweti Ropiha
Tūranga Health chairman Pene Brown.
“Reweti has a style that suggests he operates by the seat of his pants, but in reality, he puts a lot of thought into projects.”
“He stays connected with the whānau and when he stands in front of kaumātua they can relate to him. But he’s always thinking of the bigger picture and often talks in global statements.”
Ministry of Health Deputy Director-General Keriana Brooking.
"Like his stature, the contribution that Reweti Ropiha has made to Tūranganui-a-Kiwa has been massive! All of my best achievements and memories of my work in Tairāwhiti have involved Reweti and I can't thank him enough for his never-ending support and wisdom. Every pēpi, tamariki, rangatahi, pakeke, kuia and kaumātua who have received support, care and aroha from Tūranga Health, do so on his watch – congratulations."
Hauora Tairāwhiti chief executive Jim Green.
Reweti has had an impact on health in Tairāwhiti far beyond his role in Tūranga Health. His knowledge, wisdom, way of working, and sheer enthusiasm has infected us all and caused the championing of so many improvements in health, especially for Māori.
This has led Tūranga Health to greater achievements for the whānau and to be a role model for the spread of whānau ora in practice in Tairāwhiti. We all owe a great deal to Reweti Ropiha.
A life’s interest in numbers has seen Tūranga Health’s corporate services manager Lisa Tamatea clock up over 20 years with the Māori health provider.
“I do sometimes wonder if this my last financial report but at Tūranga Health there’s always something new on, something exciting, and I’m drawn in again.”
Lisa has always loved number crunching. From her childhood days playing “shops” in Matawai to overseeing Tūranga Health’s $5 million budget, Lisa gets enormous satisfaction from accounting analysis and financial management.
Her background is in book keeping. She was an accounts clerk In the Royal New Zealand Airforce and started a similar job for the Vanessa Lowndes Centre in 1997.
Not long after, the centre was taken under the wing of Tūranga Health which was slowly building in size and scope under the guidance of Reweti Ropiha.
Reweti and Tūranga Health chairman Pene Brown saw potential in Lisa and encouraged her to do tertiary study. After a lot of hard work and lack of sleep Lisa has since earned a diploma in business management, a degree in business with majors in accounting and management, and raised two children with husband Dwayne Tamatea.
Pene has regular meetings with Lisa and has always admired her skills. “Her analytical ability combined with her interpersonal skills stand out…and she’s a really good person as well.”
Outside of work Lisa often throws herself into demanding physical challenges. As well as multi-day running and cycling relay events she’s completed the Oxfam Trail 100km walk and the Spirited Women adventure race.
“Tūranga Health has a long history of walking the talk when it comes to physical fitness,” explains Lisa, who mostly does the events with colleagues.
She and Shirley Keown (who’s also knocked up 20 years at Tūranga Health) have been to some dark places during long arduous physical challenges, but it’s been worth it, she says.
“It’s made us stronger and actually, it’s part of what I love about Tūranga Health. We’re given space to grow whether it’s in the events we do or in our professional development.”
“I’m really proud of where I work. When the company was young I don’t think we used to celebrate that enough but now, Tūranga Health is an organisation the district can be very proud of.”
TAWHITI hasn't had one for a year; it's been seven years since Juanita got covered; and Solomone has never had one. But now all three – and many of their colleagues – are vaccinated against influenza.
That's thanks to a Tū Mahi Workplace Wellness partnership between Tūranga Health and employers like Gisborne's Riverland Fruit Company.
As part of their Tū Mahi programme, Tūranga Health nurses arrive at workplaces all over the district and offer flu vaccinations.
Their visit to Riverland, located on the outskirts of Gisborne, saw a crew of just over 20 permanent staff and 20 casuals keen to board the Pikiteora mobile clinic.
“There is absolutely no pressure and it is totally up to them,” says Tūranga Health kaiāwhina, Hinehou Smiler. “We're finding most whānau are keen to protect themselves and those around them as we move into the colder winter months.”
Riverland worker Solomone Paongo had never been vaccinated against the flu but when his employer said Tūranga Health would be offering them as part of their workplace programme, he was one of the first to step up.
“I've worked here for seven years and if it wasn't offered on-site I don't know if I would have had the time to get it done,” says the senior orchard worker. “It's a good way to help me stay healthy and also to protect my wife and two children (eight-year-old and 10-month-old).”
Juanita Taute also received the shot to protect her from getting unwell. “I haven't had the vaccine since I was at intermediate school so getting it at work was pretty great,” she says. “I live with my mum and neither of us want to get sick.”
Growing up with his grandparents in the Manawatu, Tawhiri Brandon-Davies used to get an annual flu vaccine but hasn't had one since he moved to Gisborne.
“I was always told it was important when I was with Nan and Pop but I missed out last year,” says the 19-year-old orchard worker. “It's really great to be back on board by having it at work . . . it feels good to be covered.”
Last year the primary health organisation gave more than 350 flu vaccinations in workplaces and Tūranga Health’s Dallas Poi says protecting even more whānau through newly signed-up employers like Riverland is a great result.
“Keeping on top of a dangerous infectious disease like influenza is a constant challenge as people move among their workmates, their whānau, and the general community,” she says.
“One person can have a lot of contacts throughout the course of a day and this is one way of keeping them all safe.”
Riverland’s human resources manager Carl Hamlin says not only does the Tū Mahi Workplace Wellness programme, including the flu vaccine, encourage healthy lifestyles for his employees, but it also shows the family company’s commitment to offering good support.
“It’s good business in that it keeps workers in work where otherwise they may be ill with the flu,” he says.
“These Tū Mahi Workplace services are also a vehicle for us, as an employer, to show our workers they are valued.
“We’ve dealt with Tūranga Health before and think they do a wonderful job.”
A HOME insulation scheme that appears “too good to be true” is helping Tūranga Health whanau stay warm and that's a big plus for those managing chronic illnesses, says Healthy Homes kaiāwhina Memory Taylor.
Under the government scheme, $142.5 million has been allocated nationally over four years to fund grants covering two-thirds of the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation.
But Gisborne has gone one better . . . Eastland Community Trust (ECT) has chipped in $1.6 million over that period to offer 100 percent funding to homeowners in the Gisborne/Tairāwhiti region.
Tūranga Health is serving as a vital link in getting that offer to the community.
“It's an opportunity many of our whānau think is too good to be true so they can be hesitant in taking it up,” says Tūranga Health chief executive Reweti Rophia.
“So we knew we'd need a real mover and shaker in the community who whānau could trust to take them through the process, and that's where Memory comes in.”
To qualify for the 100 percent funding, applicants must own their own home (built before 2008). They also need to have a Community Services or SuperGold card; or be living in a lower-income area; or be referred by a Healthy Homes provider like Tūranga Health.
“And that's it,” says Memory, who has already referred hundreds of homeowners for the scheme and, if required, is on call to help them through the process.
“We know that living in a warm home is much healthier for everyone, and especially for those managing chronic illnesses so this is something we can do to really make a difference.”
A cancer survivor herself, Memory knows how important a healthy home is to vulnerable whānau.
“If you are in a situation where you are sitting around a lot you feel the cold a lot more than if you are active.”
She cites the example of one member of Tūranga Health's Pasifika whānau, who has already accessed the scheme to top-and-tail his home in warmth-holding insulation.
“As well as managing diabetes himself, his daughter and moko were living with him so it was important they have a warm home,” she says.
“We were able to help them through the process of applying and having the home inspected and the insulation installed, and now they are all feeling the benefits.”
Reweti says it's a great way to ensure whānau are getting good results for the work they put into fostering a healthy lifestyle.
“It's frustrating to see whānau come to us for help in managing their conditions, getting great support around their health, diet and exercise, then going home to cold, drafty houses,” he says.
“That's just not going to work for them and that's why we have whole-heartedly embraced the Warmer Kiwi Homes scheme.”
Homeowners will be better off financially, too: It is estimated that an $1800 home insulation project could save that household up to $2857 each year in energy costs.
And Reweti says there's more good news to come. Once a house is adequately-insulated the homeowner can then apply for funding for a heating appliance (heat pump, or pellet or wood burner) for the main area of their home. Details of that part of the scheme will be announced soon.
“Many of our whānau live rurally in older properties that can no longer be considered to be warm, healthy homes,” he says.
“Through this scheme we can help them with that, and at the same time we're supporting them through our lifestyle programmes so they be the healthiest they can be.”
“IF you step up, we'll step up,” Turanga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha told mental health and addiction services whanau, then he put his money where his mouth is.
The result is a co-op whereby those whanau who want to each put in 50 cents a week. At the end of six weeks, the cash is tallied, Turanga Health matches the sum, and every contributor gets something special.
What's more, they get input into what that “something special” might be.
“The idea is for them to get something useful, something they value, that they might not otherwise be able to afford,” says mental health and addiction services kaumatua John Pomana.
“Like one time we got some meat and, together with vegetables from our community garden, they got lots of kai for three bucks. Another time they all got a nice new continental blanket to take home, because that's what they told us they needed.”
The co-op idea is not entirely new at Turanga Health (the Vanessa Lowndes Centre whanau have already used it to chip in for things like new sports shoes), but it is for those using mental health services.
“We have lots of ways to show we care but this is another thing again,” says John. “This way, whanau are contributing – even a little bit – and that helps bring a real sense of pride and ownership.”
This story has been reproduced from the Gisborne Herald. GISBORNE-TAIRAWHITI health and education professionals have come together to develop a community action plan for whanau affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
FASD is a brain-based disability that is the result of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
The hui discussed prevention, assessment and diagnosis, workforce development, support for families and the removal of the stigma associated with FASD.
Gisborne/Tairawhiti social worker, Tania Rauna, and clinical psychologist, Sarah Goldsbury, have been leading local efforts to spread awareness and information on FASD.
They are both passionate about exploring the need to set up local assessment and support services, but are also well aware this is no easy task.
Ms Rauna said FASD is a much bigger problem than people are aware of.
“We always talk about it as being the one thing no one wants to talk about, and I think if we talked about it more and we admitted it was a bigger problem than P and meth, then maybe the investment in it would be bigger,” said Ms Rauna.
Ms Goldsbury said there was clear evidence alcohol is the most damaging of all recreational substances for a foetus.
“Most people would be shocked to know that despite the damaging effects of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, the damage that alcohol does to a developing foetus is far greater than any of those” she said.
“Those other substances go into the mother’s lungs or blood stream, whereas alcohol freely crosses the placenta, just as food does. The blood alcohol level of the baby in utero is the same as the blood alcohol level of the mother.” Ms Goldsbury said.
Alcohol is also recognised as a teratogen, which is a substance that is particularly toxic to a developing baby’s brain and body.
She said alcohol is a huge problem for New Zealand pregnancies, as alcohol consumption was such a big part of how New Zealanders live their daily lives.
“New Zealand research has found that 40 to 50 percent of New Zealand pregnancies are unplanned. When you put that together with other New Zealand research that tells us around 70 percent of women in New Zealand drink alcohol prior to pregnancy recognition, the combination is a ticking time bomb for all parts of New Zealand society”.
Around 25 percent of New Zealand women have been found to continue to consume small amounts of alcohol after pregnancy recognition, and around 10 percent continue to binge drink”.
“There are a number of lucky individuals out there, who have been exposed to alcohol in utero, and grow up apparently the same as everyone else around them. These individuals are blessed — we do not know why some people escape unscathed. But we do know there are more than 4000 research studies proving the link between prenatal alcohol exposure and brain damage.”
The women said most of their clients who drank during their pregnancies didn’t know they were pregnant, didn’t know the damage alcohol in pregnancy could cause, or were experiencing high stress situations, mental health difficulties or addiction.
“A number of people know it is not recommended to drink in pregnancy, but they may not know that alcohol in pregnancy can cause permanent brain damage for their baby,” Ms Goldsbury said.
There is a huge stigma around talking about alcohol use in pregnancy publicly. Women often feel ashamed, embarrassed, and guilty. This is made worse by the judgement that members of the public often espouse, Ms Goldsbury said.
“I have so often heard people calling it child abuse and saying that mothers should be charged for drinking in pregnancy. However, the harshest critics are usually the mother’s themselves, when they eventually realise the harm that was inadvertently caused.
“We know punitive measures do not stop addictions, we need a rehabilitative approach, and one that takes all blame and judgement away, or mothers will not open-up and share honestly with professionals.
“We need to take collective responsibility as a nation for a problem that is a result of our drinking culture, our high mental health and addiction rates, and our high levels of domestic violence, and ask ourselves what we can do differently as a society.”
Turanga Health nurse Janneen Kinney said the message given to whanau about alcohol needed to be the same from everyone — midwives, teachers, kaiawhina, doctors, nurses.
“Different messages about what is ok causes confusion. All whanau want the very best for their baby. Our community can help whanau to achieve this if the same correct information is given at every opportunity.”
Turanga Health’s community action on youth and drugs co-ordinator Courtney Stubbins said children in this district live with the harm from the drinking culture.
“A recent study in NZ showed children are exposed to alcohol marketing on average 4-5 times a day.
“The rate is five times higher for Maori children and three times higher for Pacifica children. This highlights not only inequity and a lack of regulations but the incredible amount of resources that go into messages aimed at increasing alcohol sales. Estimates show that around $400,000 a day is spent marketing alcohol as fundamental to our lives.
Experts say there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Ms Stubbins said people need to be made aware of the harms of drinking during pregnancy, and that community action is important because we have a shared responsibility.
“Stop drinking alcohol if you could be pregnant, are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant,” said Ms Stubbins.
THEY are too late to save the community member who died in his driveway after a day's work, but could well be in time to save others who suffer a heart event near marae around Turanganui-a-Kiwa.
Maori health organisation Turanga Health has paid for defibrillators to be installed at 20 marae in a move chief executive Reweti Ropiha says is about making sure all whanau have access to the life-saving equipment.
For Turanga Health long-term staffer and kaumatua Libby (Uncle Lib) Kerr, it's personal . . . many of his siblings have hearts weakened by rheumatic fever and after their youngest son caught rheumatic fever as a teen in the late 1980s, Uncle Lib and wife Mere were told their boy would be unlikely to live beyond the age of 30.
He's defied the odds -- now aged 42, their son is still going strong, even after having major heart surgery -- but the Kerrs say it's reassuring to know that, should anything happen, help is not too far away.
St John New Zealand had gifted 59 defibrillators to marae around the country, but with the focus on remote areas, those closer to cities like Gisborne missed out.
“Reweti saw that some had gone up the East Coast and thought, 'hey, what about closer to home',” says St John national adviser (Maori health), Stephen Dennett. “So the contribution from Turanga Health is a great way to continue this journey.”
There had been talk of the possibility of getting defibrillators to Turanganui-a-Kiwa marae, but according to Reweti, it was Uncle Lib who made it happen.
“We call him Speedy because when he sets his mind to something, he makes sure it gets done.”
Getting the defibrillators purchased, installed, maintained and whanau trained in their use is a joint project between Turanga Health, St John, the NZ Fire Service and marae committees.
There is not much training to do: the hand-held devices come with easy instructions on how to get them to deliver a dose of electric current to the heart in the event of a cardiac emergency.
But even so, Turanga Health in December hosted three sessions to ensure marae representatives were up to speed.
Opotiki first responder Rebecca Jones was on annual leave when the training team visited Turanga Health but says she didn't hesitate to come back on board to help share her knowledge about defibrillators and their operation.
“That is just the St John way.”
Among the whanau at the training sessions was Ohako Marae chair Dave Pardoe, who says the chance to have a potentially life-saving device installed in their Manutuke community was “fantastic”.
“That's an offer from Turanga Health we just couldn't turn down and our committee will support St John in making sure the community knows it is there for them to use. We have all lost people so anything that could help prevent that in the future is wonderful.”
According to Stephen Dennett, Maori have high incidences of heart conditions and low rates of survival after an event, so installing thedefibrillators at marae is a way of taking help to where it is needed.
For that reason, the devices be will available externally so they can be used by the community, not just when there is a marae event on.
“While that brings some extra challenges, we believe that each community will seek to protect the safety and integrity of the devices,” Reweti Ropiha says.
“For us, it’s all about access to potentially life-saving equipment. If an incident occurred -- whether it be at Matawai or Muriwai – then we have something on hand that could make a difference and potentially change the outcome.”
THEY might be all about healthy living but they don't mind a bit of healthy competition as well!
Staff from Tūranga Health and Three Rivers Medical in November donned aprons and took up spatulas to take part in their semi-annual Cook-Off.
This year, the challenge was to cook tasty skewered kebabs on the barbecue, using ingredients from chicken, beef and vegetables to tofu or haloumi cheese, and (uncooked) fruits.
The playing field may, at times, have been a little uneven . . . Tūranga Health unleashed an early advantage with their appetiser of fresh kinaand oysters served with homemade rēwena bread.
However, Three Rivers' succulent Whangara Farms flagship beef was eventually too good for Turanga Health's seafood bonanza, and the medical team took away the win.
“We wouldn't say they cheated . . . but their appetisers were a force to be reckoned with,” laughed Three Rivers co-owner and education co-ordinator Dr Fergus Aitcheson.
Dr Aitcheson and Turanga Health events and programmes co-ordinator Dallas Poi agreed that, while the healthy competition between both organisations is well received by staff members, the atmosphere and message on the day is what sings true: “Healthy kai and nutrition can be fun and whanau can get a lot of enjoyment out of cooking together.”
And as Tūranga Health events and programmes co-ordinator Dallas Poi pointed out, “nobody can cheat anyway because there aren't any rules!”
Three Rivers chief executive and co-owner Ingrid Collins says that as well as encouraging healthy eating among whānau and service users, the cook-off is a chance for the two organisations to celebrate their ongoing relationship.
“We've worked well together since we launched in 2012 and to this day Tūranga Health is represented at our doctors' peer review meetings where they share input and ideas,” she said. “It's an important way to encourage healthy living beyond the doctors' rooms.”
For the service users who went along for the big Cook-Off, their involvement went further than simply getting a tasty, healthy feed.
As well as being able to vote for the grand winners of the 2018 Cook-Off between the two organisations, they also went into the draw to win the day's prize of a Gascraft barbeque (taken home by Eddie Evans).
And service users were questioned about their own secret food tricks, which may come into play for next year's competition.
STELLA Rihari was busy studying towards a planned career as a social worker when everything changed.
“As I got closer to completing my degree I had two placements with Tūranga Health's mental health team,” she says.
“It wasn't an area of practice I’d considered but I found the opportunity to help give disadvantaged people a voice to be deeply rewarding. When a position came up I jumped at it.”
Stella still gets to use her degree.
“There's a lot of crossover from social work and the focus on biculturalism has been really useful. I'd long felt passionate about Māori health and this is such an important part of that.”
As a kaiāwhina in Tūranga Health's busy mental health team, the former teacher gets out and about helping whānau according to needs identified in their specially-tailored support plan.
“We're there for support if they need to be hospitalised, but it’s mainly about helping in their day-to-day lives, whether that be getting to a doctor's appointment or doing their shopping.”
“Some of our whānau are more independent than others but all seem to value just knowing that we care,” she says.
“They know that we are there, that we’ll work alongside them doing everything we can to help them lead independent, meaningful lives.”
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