Kura Kaupapa Māori keeping their West Auckland community safe

Kaimahi from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae have been putting in the hard yards to protect their community against COVID-19.

Published: Wednesday, 23 February 2022 | Rāapa, 23 Huitanguru, 2022

Hare Rua, the Tumuaki or Principal of the kura, and other kaimahi, have been working tirelessly since the beginning of the Delta outbreak last August, to make sure their kura whānau, hapori Kura Kaupapa Māori, and wider Waitākere hapori are supported through the Delta and Omicron outbreaks.

“We had to take care of the wellbeing of our people. We jumped in and started doing whatever was needed,” says Hare.

The kura received pūtea through the Māori Communities COVID-19 Fund, administered by Te Puni Kōkiri, Te Arawhiti and Ministry of Health.

“The pūtea we received added another layer to the mahi we were already doing,” says Hare. “It allowed us to be even more creative with our support and to take care of our whānau in our own way.”

Tamariki making up manaakitanga packs for a vaccination event. Photo supplied.

Jacqueline Matthews from the Te Puni Kōkiri Tāmaki Makaurau office was pivotal in helping the kura secure pūtea. “We were out there doing the mahi with nothing,” says Hare. “She made the funding a reality for us.”

The kura has been involved in several different COVID-19 related kaupapa, from vaccination drives and testing to supporting isolating whānau with manaakitanga packs and helping to communicate trusted vaccine information.

With kanohi ki te kanohi events posing a risk to whānau, the kura looked to Facebook Live sessions to help inform their community about the vaccine, organising 10 sessions with experts such as Dr Lily Fraser.

In October 2021 the kura health hub became a verified vaccination centre, and three ex-students and three teachers were trained as lay vaccinators. Having familiar faces helped to put whānau at ease when they came to receive their vaccinations. “No one else is going to care for our people the way we care for our people” says Hare.

So far, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae has helped hundreds of people get vaccinated through their events, and through supporting other kura in the wider Auckland region to hold vaccination events.

Kaimahi from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae alongside the Ira Fairies at the He Tau Ira event on 5 February. Photo supplied.

Most people in the kura whānau decided to get vaccinated, but those who chose not to get the jab have not been left behind. “It’s their choice” says Hare, “and they remain a part of the whānau.”

Recently, the Ira Dot crew reached out to the kura to collaborate on their new campaign He Tau Ira – Year of the Dot. He Tau Ira has so far seen a huge vaccination drive take place on 5 February, with more collaborative events on the way in the coming weeks to support boosters and tamariki vaccinations.

Omicron has added another layer of difficulty to their response, but the team has adapted to the rapid changes this variant is bringing.

“Coming into 2022 we have our experiences from last year,” says Hare. “We know we need to go beyond the ideas used to date to encourage our people to vaccinate. We need to motivate our people with our own magic, with unconventional, out the gate, distinctively Māori ideas.”