It is exactly one month until Christmas, and if you know me well, you will know that this is my favourite time of year. I love the fairy lights and decorations that start to adorn our whare and streets, and the air of anticipation and festive cheer that infects us all as we count down to a well-earned break. Most of all, I love the opportunity to spend time and share aroha with friends and whānau, and the rituals of connection that bring us together: decorating the Christmas tree, attending Christmas social events and services, preparing kai and celebrating the holiday period. The beautiful Christmas trees here at Te Whenua Taurikura are pictured above – as always it is very special to celebrate the holidays with our close knit team.

Over the past couple of years, our Christmas cheer has inevitably been dampened by the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alert levels and traffic lights placed limitations on gatherings, and many whānau chose to implement extra precautions to protect their more vulnerable family members from the virus. Furthermore, many of our whānau have been experiencing financial hardship, struggling to pay the bills let alone plan a celebration.

As we move into the holiday season this year, it is tempting to think that things are back to normal. The traffic light system has been lifted, self-isolation rules have been softened, and we are no longer required to restrict our movements or wear masks in most of the places we visit. Many of us have already had COVID-19 at least once and have been lucky enough to recover with no serious or ongoing effects.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 still presents a risk to our communities. While we have been enjoying our freedoms, case numbers have been slowly creeping back up and experts are predicting that increased travel and public events could see daily infections reach 11,000 over the summer period, and hospitalisations reach 100.

Although it may be frustrating to consider placing limitations on yet another holiday season, I am reminding myself that ultimately, Christmas is about whānau and the best way to celebrate is to do our best to protect our loved ones. This means being vigilant for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and making the decision to stay home if we are unwell. It’s worth considering other measures like wearing masks on public transport, and asking whānau to take a test before attending large gatherings or spending time with vulnerable people. These small steps can make a huge difference in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 and other illnesses, and mean we can focus on enjoying time with our whānau with greater peace of mind.

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu will continue to keep whānau updated if COVID-19 cases continue to increase, and if there are any changes to current Government policies around managing the virus. In the meantime, let’s all do what we can to protect ourselves and our whānau over the holiday season.

Wave 17 and our Christmas countdown

We are excited to announce that our next funding round, Wave 17, will open on January 16 next year. Kei ōu ringaringa te ao – the world is yours! This is an opportunity for whānau to start thinking about their dreams and aspirations, and submit an application so that we can help make them a reality. Over the next few weeks we will be showcasing a number of successful businesses and kaupapa that have received Wave funding in the past. We have two goals: firstly, we want to inspire potential applicants by showing them what is possible, and secondly, we want to promote these businesses and encourage whānau to support them over the holiday period by purchasing their products or attending their events. Keep an eye on our Facebook page in the coming weeks for more!

Te Ora o Te Whānau

On 21-22 November kaimahi were fortunate to attend Te Ora o te Whānau, an Aotearoa-wide iwi-led hui under Pou Tangata National Iwi Chairs Forum in partnership with Te Puni Kokiri in Kirikiriroa. This kaupapa sought recommendations, whakaaro, and whānau/rangatahi voice on the wellness of whānau now and into the future focussing on the three Pou: Mana Orite, Hononga, and Oranga. We were privileged to hear the whakaaro and mātauranga from Peter Lucas about the innovative technology of Te Hiku Media, Dame Naida Glavish on wāhine as tapu, Donna Flavell and Chrissie Hape about iwi-led solutions, and many others who shared kōrero about Māori procurement, Māori-led COVID-19 responses, and the views of rangatahi today and into the future. This hui highlighted that whānau across Aotearoa are continuing to create their own solutions for te ora o te whānau, and that there is a collective responsibility at all levels to ensure the future of whānau ora is a lived reality for all mokopuna.

Koha Kai grand opening

Vanessa Hutchins and I were privileged to attend the grand opening of the new premises of Koha Kai which Janice Lee and her incredible team have been working so hard for. Surrounded by whānau, friends and associates, Janice recalled the journey of Koha Kai sharing a presentation along the way filled with photos of memories and their dream to continue to Encourage a life of purpose. Many of the kaimahi were pleased to see themselves in the presentation and were also on hand to guide us through the new space. There are plans to sell nourishing meals to the public using the vegetables grown in their māra and cooked by their kaimahi and to continue to support the wider community. A wonderful occasion enjoyed by all.

Partner visits

The visit to Murihiku provided an opportunity to meet with some of the partners who all talked about food insecurity being the uppermost issue for whānau. Waihōpai Rūnaka have been doing much to source food and have also started a pātaka. They are seeing different faces daily. All the partners said the housing shortage was the next pressing topic with many whānau finding it difficult to obtain suitable accommodation. There was just enough time for a quick visit to Toi Toi Māori Art and perhaps an item or two may have been sourced from their gift shop just to keep the economy going in Murihiku.