That’s what Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai Charitable Trust and Hora Te Pai Health Service have found on the Kapiti Coast, where one of the core COVID-19 team is supporting whānau despite being on dialysis herself.
The four-women pandemic response team includes Janine Davis who delivers the COVID-19 communications while on a dialysis machine for up to nine hours a day.
Janine says it “just wasn’t an option” for her māuiuitanga (illness) from kidney failure to stop her working for her iwi.
Her first role was to develop a communication’s strategy for the pandemic utilising the iwi strategic plan, Tuia te Kawe.
“From the onset of Alert Level 4, the Trust has been committed to deliver the best for our people through our COVID-19 response plan. Key māori concepts enabled out team to be guided by tikanga, using the themes of manaakitanga (helping others), kotahitanga (staying safe as a whānau) and whanaungatanga (drawing on each other’s strengths).”
“It has been especially important to uplift our iwi using manaakitanga through this period, we do this on the marae all the time so it’s natural for us. For me, whatever we do has to relate back to our marae and our people,” she says.
The support provided by the combined iwi and health services, and funded in part through Te Puni Kōkiri, has ranged from practical help to community liaison and guidance. It has included deliveries of firewood to vulnerable whānau, vegetable boxes and kai packages, hygiene packs, fish and chips dinners, and rongoa packs (Māori medicine) for support workers.
Around 3,000 Māori live in the Te Ātiawa iwi boundary (from Waikanae to Paekākāriki) and over half of them are registered with the Paraparaumu based Hora Te Pai Health Service.
Janine says the collaboration between iwi organisation and health provider has been incredible, and it has also created new relationships with other Kāpiti Coast organisations.
“There has always been a whakapapa connection with Hora Te Pai Health Service, so we knew our whānau and their kaimahi already had a close bond and this work has further enriched our relationship with each other.”
“We were able to liaise directly with the doctors on assessments of our kaumatua and most vulnerable whānau. We looked at various things like accessibility to medication and offered free flu vaccinations at the marae,” she says.
Acting Regional Manager for Te Puni Kōkiri (Te Tai Hauāuru), Jennie Smeaton says the partnership is a great example of Māori organisations sharing their strengths and resources.
“Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai and Hora Te Pai quickly adapted their roles to deliver important services in extraordinary circumstances. Māori entities will continue to have a key role in the recovery and rebuilding of local communities,” she says.
Janine says although the lockdown did have ‘its moments’ especially in the time she was living with four generations under one roof, there have also been silver linings.
“It is an honour to do this work as I am part of the vulnerable whānau that had to bunker down early. The Trust enabled me to work from home to focus on my health and our workplan.”
“A life on dialysis is similar to being on lockdown anyway, so to see the nation committing to keeping vulnerable whānau and kaumātua safe was heartwarming and I’m extremely grateful. The best thing was being able to dialysis during the day while working, rather than staying up to 2am to do it,” she says.
Janine says the next part of their iwi work is to look ahead to recovery of businesses, employment, the well-being of our people and sustainability for Whakarongotai Marae in Waikanae.
“A learning from the past seven weeks is the power of the internet – our people are so ingenious and creative at using this to the max. E-commerce is the way forward for our budding or existing entrepreneurs to realise their moemoeā (dreams), so we are excited to be supporting Te Rōpū Pakihi with their online local Māori business directory.”
“It’s important that whānau māori should support whānau enterprises to rebuild our economy, after all our tupuna left us the blueprint to follow,” she says.
Janine is glad she can be of service to her iwi, despite her chronic condition. She is hopeful of a replacement kidney soon as her only wish is to be a healthier version for her 13 mokopuna. After plucking up the courage, she is pursuing organ donation with whānau and through donor waiting lists.
“I love how our people are, I’m so proud to be Māori, but I would dearly like to feel normal again as our people deserve the best,” she says.
Photo caption: Janine Davis (pictured with her mokopuna) delivers the COVID-19 communications for her iwi while on a dialysis machine for up to nine hours a day. She’s hoping for a replacement kidney so she can be healthy for her 13 mokos.