New book sends awhi to tamariki and whānau who have felt pandemic's impacts

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

It's been widely reported that the past few years have been a huge struggle for many tamariki and their families, with social distancing and isolation keeping whānau apart due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed.

Now, a new book called The Awhi Warrior has been released by Te Tihi o Ruahine to help whānau talk with their tamariki about how to manage when separated from loved ones.

The book tells the story of Nanny Mihi helping her moko Teina discover the power of the atua of te ao Māori to nurture and help him care for himself and others through tough times.

Co-author and clinical psychologist Lisa Cherrington (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) says discussions in her Māori psychologist forum about the drastic changes to life brought on by the pandemic for tamariki is what prompted her to make The Awhi Warrior.

Giving tamariki and whānau awhi through another way.

Reflecting on the first days of the pandemic when her friend returned home just as the borders closed, Cherrington says, “Her mokos were standing at the fence and they couldn’t awhi her, she had to say kāo. So that really triggered this whole story about this nanny and her moko, and her nanny trying to say there’s other ways that we can receive nourishment and sustenance.”

Cherrington says connection through many forms is at the heart of the story, as Teina connects to te ao Māori, ngā atua Māori and te taiao. As a result,  Cherrington has gone back to Māori-led solutions to problems, particularly with mental health declines brought about by Covid-19.

“As a Māori clinical psychologist, what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years still isn’t working.

“We keep talking about mental health, it needs to be waiora, hauora, and those were some of the findings from the inquiry into mental health. We need to focus on holistic well-being. It’s not something new.”