A small act of kindness by a Gisborne builder unleashed a community festival at Cobham School this week celebrating new sports equipment, a garden, and easier access to pharmacy services.
“I just can’t believe what’s happened at this school and the way everyone has pulled together for the children,” exclaimed emotional principal Gina Holmes during the fun day.
The Hakinkina, Hauhake, Hauora festival was an idea pulled together by Turanga Health and community stakeholders after a chance act of kindness by a builder earlier in the year got everyone thinking.
Local basketballer and builder Scott Muncaster was working at Cobham School when he noticed students were making air shots with balls because of a lack of hoops. In a spare moment he knocked together a makeshift hoop and backboard never dreaming it would lead to anything more significant.
What happened next was truly remarkable. A basketball-mad father of a staffer, Shane McClutchie, told Basketball New Zealand about the children’s plight. Basketball New Zealand’s Hoops in Schools initiative was a perfect fit and with some added coordination from Turanga Health Cobham School is the first kura in the region to benefit from the national programme.
This week New Zealand basketball players Thomas Abercrombie and Brooke Blair surprised Cobham School children to celebrate the newly installed regulation-sized backboard hoops and give all the tamariki a basketball and some coaching.
“It’s the fastest growing sport in New Zealand,” explained Breakers captain Thomas Abercrombie, who took the kids through entertaining and inclusive on-court drills.
“We want to make sure everyone has a chance to play the game. Hoops are a meeting place for everyone. All you need is a few mates and a ball and then everyone can enjoy the game.”
Students Lata Latu (9) and Nathan Tombleson (12) were excited about the day which featured sports superstars, new equipment, and the promise of a yummy hot stir fry lunch from the mobile Turanga Health kitchen.
Nathan particularly loved the coaching and was keen to practice his “L and then R” hand motion for dunking winners. “I like bouncing the ball and dribbling it too,” says Nathan.
Holding onto her ball tightly, Lata was thrilled it had been signed by Thomas and Brooke. “I’ve learned to shoot and it’s better than when there was a bucket!”
Turanga Health has a strong relationship with decile 1 Cobham School in Elgin. As well as helping deliver Breakfast Club two mornings a week the Maori health provider linked the school with Elgin Pharmacy so whanau could better access education and resources to manage common conditions like headlice and eczema.
Pharmacist Sean Shivnan recently purchased nearby McLeans Pharmacy. “We’re part of the community and have partnered with Turanga Health to provide free treatments for head lice (kutus) and some skin conditions.
“Kody Paulson is the pharmacy manager and Linda Croskery has been a pharmacy technician at McLeans for 38 years. “Both are looking forward to helping whanau from the Elgin community.”
Pharmacist Sean Shivnan recently purchased nearby Elgin Pharmacy. “We’re part of the community and we want to help,” he says.
A Turanga Health’s Workplace Wellness partner, Riverlands, also come on board to support Cobham School this week.
Just before the festival Riverlands staff, some of whom used to go to the school, volunteered their time and resources to build a large vegetable garden.
During the festival Riverland chief executive Carl Hamlin helped children plant the last of the 200 donated seedlings.
“There’s salad greens, tomatoes, beans and sweetcorn,” says Mr Hamlin, who will also donate fruit trees to the enthusiastic school.
“’Cobham Grown’ is what we are aiming for! We’ve been amazed at how green-fingered the students and staff are. We share the same ethos and values as Turanga Health and the school, so we were thrilled to come on board.”
Principal Gina Holmes thanked everyone who attended the day and was particularly grateful to the organisations who are “throwing their weight behind a great bunch of kids and enthusiastic staff”.
“It was a fantastic day and we’ve got so much more planned for the children with the sports gear, garden, and pharmacy support.”
Caption: Nine-year-old Lata Latu was thrilled when professional basketballer Brooke Blair signed her new basketball during the Hakinakina, Hauhake, Hauora festival held at Cobham School this month.
Thank you to Matai Smith and Turanga FM for this fabulous video story.
When Turanga Health told Basketball New Zealand that Cobham School students were using a bottomless bucket for a basketball hoop - they immediately wanted to help.
“Basketball New Zealand’s Hoops in Schools initiative was a perfect fit and Cobham School is the first kura in the region to benefit,” says basketball-mad Turanga Health Service Delivery Manager Dwayne Tamatea.
The concept of the Hoops in Schools initiative is to put more fit-for-purpose hoops in primary schools.
Cobham School principal Gina Holmes says she was overwhelmed when she received the offer from Basketball New Zealand.
“Our old basketball area featured a piece of plywood with a bucket nailed to the top with it’s bottom cut out. That one was built by some builders that were working here this year. Before that the kids were playing air shots.”
“I don’t know if anyone realises just how much its going to change everything we do at Cobham School – basketball is definitely being written into the curriculum!”
On Monday [19 October] Cobham School will host New Zealand professional basketball players Thomas Abercrombie and Brooke Blair as they unveil the new hoops during the school’s Hakinakina, Hauhake, Hauora day.
Ms Holmes says as well as celebrating sport (hakinakina) the school community will see the first steps being taken in an exciting new mara kai or food garden project happening at the school. Staff from local orchard and packhouse company Riverland will be on hand helping students build a large raised garden. “We want students to learn how to plant seeds and harvest (hauhake) food for themselves and their whanau.”
There will also be a strong health focus for the day led by local pharmacist Sean Shivnan. Mr Shivnan is supporting the school with education and resources to help whānau overcome common school-age illnesses and infections including eczema and headlice.
Cobham School is a decile 1 school in Elgin with 39 students, three teachers, a kaiāwhina, and a number of ancillary staff. Ms Holmes says Cobham School aims to be at the heart of the community and Hakinakina, Hauhake, Hauora is one way to share the school’s aims and its strengths with school families and the businesses that support it.
Students from Cobham Kura, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Mangatuna, Elgin, Muriwai, Te Hapara, and Patutahi Schools, and Te Kainga Whaiora Children’s Health Camp have also been invited.
As Christine Nepia clocks up 20 years at Tūranga Health she recalls it took two attempts to get a job with the hauora.
“Someone told me to apply for a job as a drug and alcohol educator but that was after I had applied for a kaiāwhina job...and didn’t get it!” says Christine, also known as Nogs.
Christine told her whānau “nah, they’ve already declined me!” But the whānau perservered and it’s been Tūranga Health’s good fortune to have her on the team ever since.
Christine is Ngāi Tāmanuhiri on her dad’s side and Ngāti Porou through her mum. She spent some of her early life up the Coast but when her maternal grandmother passed she reconnected with her Ngāi Tāmanuhiri roots back in Muriwai.
Christine’s first health job was in 1996 as a health promoter with the Public Health Unit (PHU). At the time she was noticing Māori seemed to become unwell and die earlier than non-Māori.
“I lost my dad to cancer in 1988 and I was always wondering ‘why has this happened?’ I didn’t want to see my own whānau, hapu or iwi go through what we did. What could I do as a Māori wahine to contribute?”
Christine worked alongside health leaders like Riki Niania, Ann Shaw, Jan Askew, Kuini Puketapu, Nona Gaskin Ashton and Heather Roberston, and they shaped her passion for improving the health of others for the next 25 years.
After the PHU Christine was employed at Matapuna Training Centre and for a time was also a caregiver at a rest home. Then she found work at Tūranga Health as a drug and alcohol educator.
“This was the first Māori organisation I had worked for and it felt great. When I was at the PHU I found it difficult to help non-Māori understand the extra challenges and cultural layers facing whānau. Now I was somewhere there was an understanding.”
If someone told her to “visit Uncle Charlie on Papatu Rd,” she didn’t need a database to tell her who he was or whether she was going to be able to help him. “My whakapapa meant I already had a foot in the door.”
After a few contract changes and different roles, Christine really hit her straps when she moved into the Aukati Kaipaipa smokefree programme championing kaupapa Māori-based approaches to smokefree lifestyles. The programmes demanded unique ways of working with individuals and groups. Christine and her colleagues visited people in their homes, hosted quit programmes at workplaces, and encouraged sports teams to become smokefree. As a former smoker she could relate to the challenges and she was good at her job.
These days Christine works with Vanessa Lowndes Centre staff helping them with the skills they need to live independently. She will often be in the centre’s huge catering kitchen helping whānau learn to cook for themselves.
It was in this kitchen, during the Level 4 and 3 Covid-19 lockdown that Christine and colleague Nyoka Fox made a huge difference to hundreds around the rohe.
The pair created well over 1500 meals for delivery to whānau in need. Christine was grateful to chief executive Reweti Ropiha for laying down the challenge and giving her and Nyoka space to manage it how they saw best.
Christine says during the chaos there were some amusing times. For example, she and Nyoka would debate who would do the huge shops at Pak ’Save. They weren’t scared of Covid. “Nah, that was fine. It’s just that when Māori see Māori with a huge shopping trolley, they naturally assume someone has passed. All the way around I would get asked “who is the tangihanga for?”
With New Zealand now operating at lower lockdown levels Christine has found time to spend more time with her granddaughter Araia and pursue her other loves.
“If I wasn’t in health, I would be a fashion designer,” she says. With that, Christine pulls an impeccably made mustard coloured Covid mask featuring gold trim. “The ultimate in mask evening wear!”
Chief executive Reweti Ropiha isn’t surprised at anything Christine says or does. “She’s got the desire and the intent to always do well. Her approach is innovative and about the people. She has a lot of connections in the community and a good understanding of everyone. Congratulations on your 20 years Christine.”
Saying it like it is! Classic quotes from Nogs
On Aunty Jacinda: “Now there’s a leader who has actually taken the time to lift the mat and vacuum underneath.”
On holiday travel once husband Mike stopped needing to get out for a smoke: “Turns out it doesn’t take seven hours to get to Shannon!”
On Turanga Health: “There’s something good going on here. It’s about time services are provided by Māori for Māori.”
On health promotion: “To succeed it’s about 80 percent preparation, 20 percent presentation.”
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