This week I am standing down as a board member for PILLARS, an organisation that supports children and whānau of prisoners in Aotearoa. PILLARS is motivated by the tragic reality that children who have parents inside are nine times more likely to end up in prison than other children.
We all have a duty and an obligation to do better by them.
Over the past four years on the Board, my biggest contribution has been in supporting a focus which recognises the value that whānau can bring to the restoration and rehabilitation of their loved one back into the community.
I was also determined that we should not consider the situation for children of prisoners in isolation of their greater context of children within whānau. These are both lessons drawn from my time immersed in the Whānau Ora approach, which prioritises self-determination and a whānau context in everything we do.
The vision of PILLARS is now to “support the whānau of people in prison to create positive futures for and with their children.”
I am sad to be finishing, especially because this group of children – those with parents in prison – are arguably some of our most vulnerable.
However I believe it is time for fresh energy, and at our AGM we welcomed two new board members, Dante Fyfe (Ngapuhi, Samoa) and Nick Burns.
I cannot help but be humbled by the amazing support of volunteers and mentors for PILLARS.
I acknowledge the vast contribution of the Kamo whānau, particularly the late Raynoll Kamo, who was inspirational in his service and leadership as our Board kaumatua. There has been a huge legacy by trailblazers in Te Waipounamu such as Dr Liz Gordan and Verna McFelin. PILLARS was established by Verna in 1988, and over 32 years her passion for developing this into a national organisation has been enormous.
This week I was also privileged to speak at the three-day training based at Wai-Ora for the Certificate on Whānau Ora course. Among the participants were kaimahi from Purapura Whetu, Arowhenua Whānau Services, and Tū Pono Tū Tangata. The focus of the training this week was about the diversity of whānau, as well as the value of PATH planning. As they say, “there are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.” What is always so motivating in my times with Tipu Ora is seeing the incredible dedication and burning hunger to learn amongst the advocates and activists for Whānau Ora.
This week we welcomed Julia Maxwell (Ngāti Kahungunu) to our whānau here at Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu. She will be with us for the summer as our Human Resources People Experience Co-ordinator, researching ways that we can use technology to better engage with our kaimahi. This is something Julia is passionate about and that she is studying as part of her Masters in Commerce. Juliet has been placed at Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu through our partnership with TupuToa, a programme that helps increase Māori and Pacific representation in leadership in the corporate sector. We’re looking forward to having Juliet with us for the next few months and seeing her overhaul our systems!
Earlier this year we were pleased to support Te Hohepa Kōhanga Reo in Phillipstown, Otautahi through our Kōanga Kai initiative, allowing them to fulfil their dream of developing a new māra kai on their premises.
They began with some blue barrels that were donated by Whaea Tuhira, which Matua Dion cut in half.
They used their funding to purchase the remaining materials for the garden beds, as well as potting mix, seeds, seedlings and a new fence.
The tamariki were fascinated watching the māra kai being assembled, and once it was ready they were all involved in the planting of tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, corn, pumpkin, kamokamo, capsicum, strawberries and broccoli.
These are growing well and the tamariki are looking forward to harvesting their first kai!
The Fitt Mum Project was designed to provide mothers with face-to-face and online fitness classes which focussed on the physical hauora for hardworking Māmā. The kaupapa offers learning about how mothers can care for their own physical hauora through fitness and health sessions, thus allowing them to better care for themselves and their whānau.
The Fitt Mum Project have spent the last quarter concentrating on their marketing by getting their brand promoted through many different sources including an updated website. A recent addition of a qualified Nutritionist has added extra dimension to the support that they offer.
The team have also put effort into professional development having completed further learning and certification in pelvic floor essentials and a pre and postnatal course.
When it comes to vaccination, my advice is – go away and think about your choice. Consider your whānau, consider your friends, consider all the people you love. When you’re ready, whether that’s in an hour, a day, a week or even a month, come back and tell me your answer. And whatever choice you’ve made, you need to own it – you need to be proud of it for you and for your whānau.
In all this kōrero about vaccination, we can’t force our opinion on anyone else. Sometimes when people are told they must do something, it makes them do the opposite. They need time and space to make good choices.
For me, I was a bit sceptical to start with. I did a lot of reading. I was influenced by what you see on social media. There were questions like, is this too soon? Has this happened too quickly? What about the new strains?
Then I thought about my situation. I spend a lot of time at the pā in Rāpaki surrounded by the whānau – all the aunties, the uncles and the cuzzies too. I will do anything I can to protect them.
I also thought about what I do for mahi as a Whānau Ora Navigator and the number of different people and groups I see in just one day. The way I interact with them, the way I greet them. The potential that every time I see someone new the virus could jump. Not only is the spread scary, but I thought about who I could spread it to.
Some of the people I know are more vulnerable, a lot of kaumātua, a lot of people who I know wouldn’t do well if they caught the virus.
I also talked about it with my whānau, and I listened and heard about their experiences of getting the jab and why they chose to do it. And I came back with my decision. I’ve been vaccinated and I am proud of it. I did it to protect myself, to protect my whānau, to protect all the people I love.