LAMERE Edmonds pulls into her driveway, enters her warm, dry unit and takes her eight-month-old twins with her as she has a quick shower to wash off the day's work.
A vehicle, a job, and a home for her babies . . . all things she could never have dreamed of just six months ago.
After a “horrible” 12 months plagued by legal problems and family breakdown, Lamere was living in a refuge with her baby twins. Her two older sons (aged 3 and 4) were with whanau, she had no job, and no drivers' licence.
The 28-year-old knew she had to turn things around and that’s where they long arms of Turanga Health come in.
“It seems crazy now, but it's like I had to get to the point where I had no other options before I could ask for that help.”
Lamere had already connected with Turanga Health last year by taking part in its antenatal classes in the lead-up to Justyce and Harmony's birth.
“I had already had the boys but I'd never had twins and I knew Janelle (Turanga Health's Mama and Pepi kaiawhina Janelle Te Rauna-Lamont) had triplets, so I thought it was a chance to learn about multiples,” she says.
While the babies turned out to be “cruisy as” Lamere herself needed extra help.
Turanga Health linked Lamere into programmes including Mama And Pepi (for pregnant mothers); Tamariki Ora (for healthy babies); Mums And Bubs (fitness for mums); and Driver Learner Licence (to get her on the road – legally).
Her Turanga Health Whanau Ora navigator, Tangiwai Milner, helped get Lamere and the twins into a cosy, two-bedroom Housing New Zealand unit and got to work on accessing funds for vitals like car seats and furnishings.
And at the beginning of July, Lamere started back in the workforce.
“When you consider that I started from nothing, Turanga Health has had a huge impact on our lives,” she says.
Meet the staff:
Tangiwai Milner has worked at Turanga Health since graduating with a social work degree in 2015. She works with up to 30 whanau. Below she shares how she and the other kaiawhina can help.
“When I visit whanau we talk about putting together a plan that will help them take control of their lives. It might be something as simple as doing a literacy course or getting a driver's licence. Or I might refer them on to another service to achieve a certain aim.
Even the seemingly little things can have a big impact. If you don't have a driver's licence you can have trouble with employment, you can't take your babies to the doctor, it can be very limiting.
Our ultimate goal is to empower whanau to take charge themselves. I like to think I can support whanau in achieving their goals, while ensuring they do 95 percent of the work.
They know the support is there and we walk alongside so they can make a difference in their own lives.”
THE aroma of bacon hock and vegetable soup mingles with the heady scent of baking bread as Thomas Mokomoko tends his steaming saucepans.
“I like to use whatever is in season,” says Thomas of the meals he creates. “You have to work out what’s fresh and make sure you don't go over budget.”
It has been six months since Thomas and fellow Vanessa Lowndes Centre (VLC) user Rachelle Gardner founded the V Club healthy food initiative.
Every Wednesday the pair plan, shop for, and prepare $5 lunches for up to 32 staffers at VLC umbrella organisation, Tūranga Health.
VLC kaiāwhina Christine Nepia (employment) and Kendy Riki (living with diabetes) say there is more to the club than providing healthy meals.
The idea was to use the commercial kitchen at VLC to teach healthy eating habits to Thomas, who admits that an affection for burgers and pies wasn't doing his diabetes any good.
At the same time the V Club could help the formerly-reserved Rachelle develop skills and build confidence.
We started small, says Thomas who, with some cooking and food hygiene training already under his belt, takes most responsibility for menu planning and shopping.
“Our plan was just to start making a few healthy sandwiches for staff but it built up and up from there.”
Vanessa Lowndes manager Laura Biddle says the V Club is just one solution for helping guide a person towards independent living, and the results have been beyond their expectations.
“We knew it would help but we can't believe how much. In terms of coming out of her shell and taking charge of her life, Rachelle has just blossomed”.
And as well as feeling physically better, Thomas' confidence has de-veloped to the point that, rather than being a worker in the kitchen, he is running the show. “What was a way of managing his diabetes has turned into a potential career path.”
Tūranga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha says the organisa-tion's flexibility meant it could look across its programmes and find so-lutions to help build resilience and independence.
Meanwhile, Thomas has also re-cently joined Tūranga Health's health and fitness programme, Eke Tū, meaning his diabetes now faces the dual threat of a healthy diet plus regular exercise.
“I’m really impressed by how both he and Rachelle have taken the bull by the horns,” says Reweti (a regu-lar lunch time customer despite be-ing refused a discount by legendary “tight bugger” Thomas).
“They have taken charge of this project so all I can do is stand back and applaud their awesome efforts.”
THERE’s a new happy face greeting visitors at Turanga Health, and there’s a good reason for that.
“I absolutely love working here . . . it is an amazing team,” says Oriwia Baker, who took over the front desk in mid-July.
“I always wanted to come back to Gisborne and when I saw this job advertised I knew it was the one for me.”
Oriwia is Rongowhakaata and Ngati Porou and was born in Gisborne. When she was aged five her family moved to Waikato, where many of them went to university.
That included Oriwia, who was halfway through a four-year management degree when she decided to “come home” to be with her farmer partner, Jackson Davoren.
For a while, “home” was in the bush at Tiniroto, but they have now returned to Jackson's childhood stamping ground of Whatatutu, where they live with tamariki Tawhiao, aged three, and “our baby girl” Indie, who made her entrance on Christmas Eve.
“It is a juggle when you have little children but I am lucky to have a partner who is very hands-on,” says the 24-year-old. “It gives you a good understanding of the challenges many people face in their lives.”
Not that it is entirely new to her. Before returning to Gisborne, Oriwia worked for Hamilton organisation Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa, which she says delivers similar services to her new employer.
As well as answering telephone queries and being the “face” visitors see at Turanga Health's front desk, Oriwia does “a bit of everything” from managing incoming referrals to juggling staff resources including vehicles and tech equipment.
But it's the people she loves the most. “The work we do here is awesome and I love being a part of something that helps our whanau thrive,” she says.
“People who come to Turanga Health are often in need and it's exciting to be a part of helping them turn that around.”
OUR community nurses continue to deliver the Tu Mahi wellness programme to forestry crews and companies within the rohe.
This month has seen PF Olsen and Kohntrol Forestry take advantage of the health checks which include smoking cessation, heart and diabetes checks and other preventative measures during the on-the-job health checks.
Our rural nurses headed to Kohntrol Forestry onsite at Tolaga Bay with Piki te Ora and hosted a number of crews onsite at our offices on Derby Street.
It's always an exciting time when the Tu Mahi health checks take place, as delivering to rural-based clients is what our services are all about!
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
There is nothing more important to Turanga Health than the health and wellbeing of our tamariki and rangatahi. In 2017, the organisation has been a helping hand in serving the most important meal of the day on site at Gisborne Boys' High School, after staff and teachers noticing many students arriving to class hungry. Te Karere has more.
TURANGA Health's E Tipu E Rea programme is seeing positive health results for Māori babies including a decrease in unnecessary hospital visits. The programme gives young mums the wraparound help they need. Watch the news including interviews with local mama, and Chief Executive Reweti Ropiha at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNW-Qg5uwPg&feature=share
DAWN Vodivodi says her husband has problems finding shoes to fit his “Fiji feet” but his chances of doing so just got better.
Being the first-ever winner of the Three Rivers Medical Turanga Health 'champion ideas' competition, Jone Vodivodi has received a $200 voucher for a new pair of sports shoes.
Under the Champion Ideas dual initiative, Turanga Health and Three Rivers have simple questionnaires in their waiting rooms which they use to ask a different question each month.
The query Jone answered to win his voucher, for example, was seeking three top ideas for a warm, healthy home, while the May questionnaire seeks ideas about how to prevent falls in the home.
Three Rivers chief executive Ingrid Collins say the information gathered from the questionnaires will help the two organisations in their partnership to provide better primary health services.
“Our people are our biggest source of intelligence,” she says. “That is a resource we want to tap in to.”
Meanwhile, Jone Vodivodi says having new shoes will help with his next challenge – to work on his fitness.
“I first went to Turanga Health about five years ago to do their smoking cessation programme and that worked really well,” he says.
“But after giving up smoking I put on a bit of weight so now it's time to do something about that.”
CAPTION: From left: Turanga Health events co-ordinator Dallas Poi, Champion Ideas inaugural winner Jone Vodivodi, and Ingrid Collins, Chief Executive of Three Rivers Medical.
IT is not just finding out what changes their bodies may go through that is important for young people, it's also knowing that it's something everyone goes through . . . it's all normal, says Turanga Health community nurse Reena Rivera.
“There can sometimes be a bit of giggling at the start but it doesn't take long to settle down and then they are really interested,” she says of the Puberty and Personal Hygiene classes she and colleague Aimee Milne take at the 11 rural schools on their beat.
The Puberty and Personal Hygiene sessions are held separately – with caregiver permission required for the Puberty sessions – for year 7 and 8 students in the Turanga Health catchment.
Mostly, they are co-ed, though the girls do splinter off to learn a bit more about menstruation and how to manage it.
“Sometimes you can find that, if it is just girls or just boys, the students can be a bit more forthcoming with their questions,” says Reena, who works with schools in Turanga Health's Western Rural area.
“But they are all very interested and engaged and you can see that growing as they realise that 'this is not just happening to me'.”
Most students are comfortable being presented with scientific information in a professional manner and that, Reena believes, is the key to the classes' success.
“Many parents will talk to kids about these things but they often bring their own background into it,” agrees Aimee, who takes care of Turanga Health's Eastern Rural area.
“That's great, but we find the students respond really well to things like using the proper names for their body parts – 'penis' rather than 'willy', for example – and it creates a good, open learning environment for them.”
During the Personal Hygiene sessions, students learn about everything from showering to head lice and hand-washing.
Meanwhile, in Puberty education, topics include the mental and physical changes students can expect as they mature; how to manage those changes; how to access support if they feel they need a chat; the importance of sleep, exercise and nutrition; and how to keep themselves safe during their teen years.
While the nurses don't cover sexual behaviour for year 7 and 8 students, they do talk about reproductive organs and the mechanics of conception.
And it's all for a good cause: studies show that empowering students with information about themselves and others helps prevent incidences of teen pregnancy and sexual violence.
Both Reena and Aimee say they don't just talk “at” the students, they talk “with” them by incorporating brainstorming, group exercises and discussions.
“Even at that age the students are at very different stages both in their development and in the amount of knowledge they have,” Aimee says.
“But they all seem to get a lot out of it,” adds Renee, “and it's very rewarding to help kids understand that what they are facing is normal, and to give them the tools they need to help deal with it.”
THREE months after funding for the HPV vaccine was extended to cover males, a Gisborne health provider has asked eligible boys if they want it and the answer has been a near-unanimous “yes”.
Turanga Health community nurses offer cover at 11 rural schools in Tairawhiti which between them have about 45 year-eight boys on their rolls.
Of those, 41 boys have consent from their caregivers to be vaccinated against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV).
That's an uptake rate of around 91 percent – well up on the 66 percent average coverage for girls across the country. It’s also considerably higher than the 72 percent average recorded in the wider Tairawhiti region, and the 75 percent target the Ministry of Health hopes to reach for HPV vaccinations in New Zealand.
Turanga Health community nurses Aimee Milne and Reena Rivera believe straight-talking has been key to getting parents and caregivers on board.
They don't talk as much about growths-on-genitals as they do about heading off life-threatening diseases, says Aimee.
“We talk to the kids about the vaccine, show them a video about how it works then give them information to take home to their parents so they can decide if it is for them,” she says.
“There are lots of benefits we can talk about but, for us, the emphasis is really on those potentially fatal diseases. We think that's massive.”
Not all of the boys have had their first shots – for reasons such as forgetting their consent forms – but Reena says they do a catch-up visit to ensure the boys are ready for their second shot (and last) shot around September.
“That's why we like to approach them early in the school year, so we can make sure they get both shots for full cover.”
The nurses say that immunisation before the age of 15 means young people need only two doses of the vaccine, rather than three. It also ensures they have full cover well before they consider becoming sexually active and therefore coming into contact with the various forms of HPV.
Since its introduction in 2008 the vaccine has been free for girls (though available to others for $500-$800) because of HPV's relationship with cervical cancer.
Since the start of this year, however, it has also been offered free to boys and University of Auckland senior lecturer Dr Helen Petousis-Harris says that's a matter of equity.
“The HPV virus causes cancers that affect them, too, and boys also get genital warts, just like girls,” she says. “Offering this vaccine to all our population makes it much fairer.”
Members of a Manutuke kapa haka team find a fitness programme that helps keep them on top of their game.
THE swell of voices rising in waiata gives way to the bulge of biceps when a Manutuke kapa haka team swaps rehearsing for training in the great outdoors.
“Stay in it whānau,” Tū Te Manawa Maurea kaiāwhina Bruce Amai urges as team members realise just how many press-ups and kettle bell lifts they have let themselves in for. “It will be so worth it.”
As part of their build up for the 2017 Te Matatini kapa haka nationals, members of TTMM (Rongowhakaata) have taken part in weekly sessions known as Tū Haa – an outdoor training initiative run by Turanga Health.
“Being fit is important for the performers but this is also a way for them to strengthen their bond away from the performance arena,” says Turanga Health kaiāwhina Bernie Semau.
Bernie has a background in health science and personal training. “Taking the activities outside means we can use and enjoy our natural resources. People like being out and about and appreciating where they live.”
Bruce Amai's role as kaiāwhina with TTMM sees him working behind the scenes, but he joins the team front and centre at their Thursday night Tū Haa sessions.
“I like to stay active and I like to get behind the whānau and this is a way of bringing the two together,” he says. “It builds on and enhances what we already have as a whānau and as a team.”
It is also a way of making sure TTMM is always on its game.
“Te Matatini is over for another four years but we always take part in the Tairāwhiti Tamararo regionals so, by continuing to work together, we stay focused.”
With Tū Haa (the breath), anyone can take part and TTMM kai haka Alex Ria says that suits her perfectly.
Alex has been member of the team for 10 years and in 2010 added a further string to her bow by training for Iron Māori.
Tū Haa sessions help her maintain fitness for kapa haka and the myriad of other sporting commitments she and her whānau enjoy.
And, as she says, the whānau that plays together, stays together . . . for Te Matatini 2017, son Kereopa (17) played guitar and joined in on the Tū Haa circuit.
“When you step up a level to do something like Iron Māori it’s worth maintaining that fitness and these sessions really help,” Alex says.
“It helps us continue those important connections we have within the team, plus it's great to go somewhere after work where you can really have a blow-out.”
Story by Kristine Walsh
Images by Strike Photography
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