ANITA Ngatu doesn't regret the years she worked in a fast food restaurant but says, these days, she thinks more carefully about nutrition.
“At the time you are just thinking about providing for your family, putting food on the table,” says Anita Tongan, Ngāti Porou.
“But I really wanted more for my family, and to help the whānau of others, which is why I changed direction and trained as a nurse.”
Graduating with a Bachelors degree in 2015, the mother-of-three worked in both aged and hospital care until 2019 when she joined Turanga Health as co-ordinator for its E Tipu E Rea referral hub for services for mothers and babies.
But it took just a couple of months before she realised she could better use her training in a hands-on role and became a nurse with Turanga Health's Well Child Tamariki Ora programme.
“I've worked with adults for most of my life so working with tamariki – and doing post-grad Well Child Tamariki Ora training -- means there is always something to learn,” she says.
“I love the contact with māmā and pēpi and it's always a privilege to be welcomed into their homes and to play a role in their lives.”
Introducing Turanga Health kaiawhina and Covid-19 vaccinator Henry Lamont. Henry has trained as a vaccinator in an effort to ensure there are more male faces in this space. He's doing it for his whānau and his community. Watch the short clip and keep up to date as to when the next rural vaccination clinic is in your area.
TWICE a week, Turanga Health's hub at Elgin thrums to the strumming of up to 30 ukelele and leading the charge is George Brown.
It might seem an unusual task for the community nursing kaiāwhina but George, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Ngāti Kahungunu, says it fits right in with the Turanga Health kaupapa.
“It not only gets people in the door to show what services might be available, but they also go out and play in the community and share what they have learned.
“It is like an outreach programme, but with ukulele, so as the hub grows the community is informed and on board.”
That also fits in with George's own kaupapa which, throughout his career, has focused on working with Māori, for Māori.
After growing up in rural Matawai, he started work in as a cadet with the Department of Māori Affairs.
He found the engagement across social work, housing, rural development and Māori Land Court to be enriching so moved to Hamilton to further study the history of Māori land, returning to Gisborne until 1989 when the department was dissolved.
Over the following years he was shoulder-tapped for roles that saw him working in tertiary education and Māori development, and took him to the South Island and back to the North, where he wanted to be closer to his daughter in Hamilton.
“Throughout that time I always said I would go home and I eventually made it.”
Once back in te Tairāwhiti, there was still plenty of work to do and George spent the next decade in senior roles with the Rural Education Activities Programme, Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust, Te Runanga o Ngati Porou, Tairāwhiti Children's Team and Whānau Ora.
In 2019 he joined Turanga Health where his key roles involve supporting the nursing team and its programmes, and driving the “voice” initiative that gets feedback from whānau to ensure services are targeted and appropriate.
“And that's really important,” he says. “We have gone from a time when government was telling Māori what was best for them, to one where whānau can define what they need, and how that can be accessed.”
AS an apprentice hairdresser Ashlee Riri had to have great skills in communication and that's what she brings to her role as receptionist at Turanga Health.
“When I was at school I first wanted to be an architect, then a hairdresser, and that's what I did and got seven years' experience in that role,” says Ashlee (Rongowhakaata, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Porou).
“But when the job came up at Turanga Health in 2019 it looked like a chance to do something completely different, while still using some of the skills I already had.”
Ashlee's primary role is to keep everything running smoothly “front-of-house”. As well as looking after the work site she'll be answering and directing calls, greeting and signing in visitors, and generally making sure everyone gets to where they need to go.
“It can be pretty busy but it's fun and when you are dealing with whānau, you have to present a positive face for the organisation.”
And having had her own experience of trying – and failing -- to get the caring health support she needed, she truly values her current workplace.
“All our staff genuinely care about the people they are working with and that really shows,” she says.
“Turanga Health is very whānau oriented . . . they care about your wellbeing both in and out of work. It is definitely the best place I have ever been lucky to work for.”
WORKING as a database administrator for Turanga Health means Franzee Nuku spends a lot of time at her desk, but her employers were never going to let her get away with just that.
“During my school days I used to play a bit of sport but, with three children, it can feel like you don't have time for that sort of thing,” says Franzee (Ngai Tāmanuhiri).
“But at Turanga Health they take you to try out all sorts of fitness options to help you stay healthy and feel better about yourself, and now I love the Les Mills classes I get to do at the YMCA gym.”
When she is at her desk, though, she plays a key role in logging everything from whānau referrals and registrations to actions carried out by staff and outcomes. Her work creates the data set that is then analysed to help Turanga Health plot its future goals.
And it's a perfect fit for Franzee who, while juggling the demands of early motherhood, chose business and technology as the focus of her studies.
That led to the role she started in 2019 with Turanga Health, which she says has helped her in more areas than career and fitness.
“They have really helped me develop as a person,” she says. “When I first started I was super shy but the staff have been a huge help in supporting and encouraging me to step up every single day.”
AS mum to a young child, Cassandra Sheridan worked in retail until deciding she wanted a more fulfilling career and made the shift to nursing.
Getting there took some time – while working towards her nursing degree in Gisborne she studied, took a year off to have her second child, studied some more, then took another 12 months off to have her third before she got to her graduating year.
“It did take a while but it was worth it,” says Cassandra. “Before I started training I'd never even been in a hospital except to have my children, but I felt I was a caring person and nursing was somewhere I could make a difference.”
And she has had to learn fast. Before working in a GP centre then joining Turanga Health as a Tamariki Ora nurse in March 2021, Cassandra got a crash course in nursing at Gisborne Hospital.
“I'd actually started as an orthopaedic nurse but the Covid-19 pandemic meant we were all moved around a lot so I quickly shifted to surgical then medical,” she says.
“It was a crazy period but fantastic for me in that I got to learn a lot of new skills over a very short period of time.”
Her new role is also busy, but she says visiting mamas and pēpi in their homes, talking about how they are going and working through their Well Child Tamariki Ora checks is a great fit for her.
“As a māmā myself, working with other mothers really excites me and it doesn't hurt that I'm also a really good talker!”
And her work base at Turanga Health, too, feels just right.
“I especially love how we are all working together so communication across the team flows really smoothly.
“That's really great for everyone as I feel it helps us provide the best care to our clients.”
GROWING up in Iloilo City, in the Philippines, Prue Langdon watched her sister train as a nurse then travel with her skills and decided that was the life for her
Now a community nurse with Turanga Health, Prue first worked in a medical-surgical ward before moving to New Zealand in 2011.
There was, as expected, a delay while she processed her overseas registration so she was delighted to be confirmed a New Zealand Registered Nurse just two years later.
After that, much of her employment was in aged care with her last posting in that environment being the demanding role of co-ordinating an entire unit that included both rest home and dementia care.
In the interim, the keen traveller had been passing through Christchurch Airport when she met her now husband. The couple now have two young children and Prue says they are their absolute joy.
“In nursing, your main aim is to help people but I also needed to be available to my own children so working with Turanga Health gives me the best of both worlds.”
Prue has a client base of around 100 whānau who she sees with varying regularity -- depending on their needs – and supports in their sometimes complicated navigation of the health system.
“Turanga Health has a big focus on whānau and the flexibility of being a community nurse enables me to spend time with my own family while still doing work that I love,” Prue says.
“It's a great environment to work in and gives me the opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives.”
IT can be tricky finding jobs for whānau not ready for traditional work but Richard Brown says if he can't find a job, he'll make one.
As work broker for Turanga Health's Vanessa Lowndes Centre for those with mental, physical or intellectual disabilities, Richard works with around a dozen whānau to help find and support them in work.
“It might only be for a few hours a week but that matters in terms of enriching their lives while they get to make a contribution,” he says. “But we do sometimes have to get a bit creative in finding that work.”
To that end, Turanga Health runs a car valet service that provides work for whānau; some do laundry for local schools; some might go out to pick fruit; while others are employed by cleaning contractors.
“As well as putting a bit of money in their pockets, being engaged in work gives our whānau mana and purpose, and that's something we all need.”
Richard's own employment history shows a clear path to Turanga Health's door, his work in roles like sports development, education and mentoring youth all focused on helping others be their very best.
And as he tells the VLC whānau, sometimes you just have to muck in, like he did working through the Covid-19 lockdown, helping Turanga Health deliver countless meals and thousands of “Covid kits”.
“Being part of that reminded me of why Turanga Health is such a great place to work,” he says. “It has this strong connection with the community that you really see in times of need.”
Outside of work, Richard is a sports nut who played at a high level in both rugby and league, and to this day runs the Tairāwhiti junior league because “if people don't get involved, these sports will die out”.
He's also dad to four children – from pēpi to near-teen – who he reckons keep him on his toes. Like him, they're all sporty. And though he is a blond-haired, blue-eyed Pakeha, his partner's role as a tutor in te reo Māori means all four are fluent speakers and are well versed in te ao Māori.
“That's just how we live, it's who we are as a whānau,” he says. “We love being together and doing things together. I just love spending time with my kids.”
Far from the hustle and bustle of working in Australian hospital emergency rooms and operating theatres, nurse Rebecca Hoani has settled into a quiet but important role supporting vulnerable māmā and their pēpi in Gisborne.
“I feel very settled and really enjoy my job,” says Rebecca, who right now is walking her own difficult journey reconnecting with life after the loss of her spouse two years ago.
Rebecca, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rakaipaaka, is coordinator of local service E Tipu e Rea – a holistic programme helping look after mothers who are facing challenges while they are pregnant, or when they have a newborn or young child.
Visiting nurses and kaiāwhina will wrap as many services as needed around the family such as the nationwide Tamariki Ora Well Child service, healthy home improvements, smoking cessation, or links to other services such as drug and alcohol.
Alongside this support the staff may be able to help the māmā to access essential items purchased using the small E Tipu e Rea putea or fund.
“Some whānau can be managing very stressful situations on top of bringing up a newborn or young baby,” says Rebecca. “It might be violence in the home, drug and alcohol issues, or even homelessness. This small putea through E Tipu e Rea can be used for things like a cot, a car seat, or a breast pump - items that will help support the whānau to ensure their baby can be kept healthy and safe.”
Rebecca works out of the Turanga Health office on Derby St where all E Tipu e Rea referrals from around the rohe are managed from. Once approved staff from Turanga Health, Ngati Porou Hauora and Te Aitanga a Hauiti Hauora work with the families who are receiving support.
The work is busy, but nothing like the hectic shiftwork of Rebecca’s previous jobs.
Born and raised in Gisborne Rebecca trained to be a nurse in Hawkes Bay and then worked for 15 years inMelbourne across both tertiary hospital emergency departments and operating theatres.
“But something changed when we had our children and I couldn’t see myself in that environment of stress, trauma and shift work. That’s why I moved into recovery room nursing after I had babies.”
She, husband Bernard, their son, and with one on the way, moved back to Gisborne three years ago to be closer to whānau as Bern's health was rapidly deteriorating as a result of a long term auto immune condition.
But in early 2019 the family lost Bern to illness. Bearing the unbearable, Rebecca has thrown herself into supporting her own two babies, now nearly three and six, and staying physically and emotionally well.
“After my husband passed it was time to do something for me. I wasn’t sure if I could go back to work in healthcare again. I knew I didn’t want to go back to frontline nursing so this has been something to help mentally change my focus.”
She says working in the E Tipu e Rea “hub” as its known, has been humbling. “It’s an honour to support the nurses and kaiāwhina working face-to-face with whānau in their homes.”
Now she’s back home Rebecca is loving the reconnections with her whānau and rohe. She is improving her te reo Māori through Rongowhakaata wananga; has joined a waka ama team; and in winter loves nothing more than a cold water surf session. It shocks the body into feeling something and sharpens the mind, she says. “That rush you get afterwards, it can stay with you for hours.”
Rebecca reports to Tamariki Ora WellChild manager Janneen Kinney. Janneen is thrilled to have someone with Rebecca’s compassion working behind the scenes in such an important area of health.
“Rebecca has a quiet strength, a strong connection with te ao Māori and understands the ‘whatever it takes’ kaupapa. She is truly an asset to the team and the wahine she is helping support.”
AFTER starting her family young, Turanga Health accounts administrator Alecia Lewis worked in both business and Māori development but says it was her first job that showed her what she wanted in a workplace.
“My first office job, from when I was 18, was with Mo Reedy Transport and I loved working there. There was a real whānau atmosphere with Mo being like my koro and between him and the rest of the team I learned heaps about both the job and myself . . . they all helped me grow into adulthood.”
Alecia, Ngāti Porou, spent the following years growing her family of three children, studying business and computing, and working for an accountancy firm and an iwi organisation.
Then in mid-2019 she joined Turanga Health where her desire for new challenges has been met . . . and then some.
“My initial focus was on payroll but there is no sitting in a corner and hiding behind your screen here,” she says.
“Lisa (Turanga Health corporate services manager Lisa Tamatea) has taken me under her wing to make sure I get a wide range of experiences.
“I have really benefited from Turanga Health's focus on personal development that is not only good for us as individuals, it’s something we take into all areas of our lives.”
And in addition to all those challenges, Alecia is working on furthering her studies in business, skills she hopes to use to help create better health outcomes.
“There are so many opportunities at Turanga Health and I feel I have already had the chance to do so much,” she says. “It has really brought me out of my shell.”
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