Southern Whānau Ora continues to help vulnerable whānau

By D'Angelo Martin

South Island Whānau Ora navigators are run off their feet trying to meet the wide-ranging demands of whānau in Christchurch. A survey commissioned by Te Pūtahitanga gives a snapshot of around 1500 households which shows nearly 60% of whānau will run out of kai during the lockdown and 30% without the basics such as soap. 
Whānau Ora navigators Waikura McGregor and Wiremu Wallace take care of referral requests for essential goods such as food and medicine.

"When looking after a Manaaki 20 referral we would ring the whānau and we would kōrero about what that need is and if it is a kai need like the whānau that we've just seen then we will discuss what's needed," Waikura McGregor says.

Wiremu Wallace, left. Waikura McGregor right - Photo / File

But the list doesn't stop there. The survey shows that the needs of nearly 1500 households vary massively. Waikura McGregor explains the sorts of needs that were identified.

"Anything from mobile bathrooms, to kai assistance, to advocacy. Navigating WINZ, the new subsidy, low income to no income. Various issues on the ground homelessness loneliness pre and post-surgery."

Te Pūtahitanga Pou Ārahi Helen Leahy says the survey just how bad the situation for whānau is through the lockdown.

"We're seeing indications of not enough firewood. Not enough funding to be able to pay their power bills. Not enough kai to last four weeks. Having to make real decisions. Do I pick up medication? Or do I put kai on the table?"

Leahy says many of the whānau referrals were already experiencing hardships prior to lock-down and it’s even harder for them to make ends meet.

"For many of them, they've lost their income. They have been unwell and therefore have chosen to leave their work and therein more vulnerable positions." 

Helen Leahy - Photo / File

Anxiety and loneliness are also an issue for the elderly and it’s the main reason this husband and wife duo continue to do the work.

"It's my jam. It's what I love to do. It's aroha atu, aroha mai and action and that's what Whānau Ora is and it's always been. That's what Māori have also known to do.

"Around 1400 whānau members are over 60 so we're taking particular care to make sure that their needs have been met," they say.

IIn the overall survey, 91% identified as Māori, 39% of whom are of Ngāi Tahu descent.

The work carried out by these navigators are integral as only 8% are confident with online services.