For over ten years, the kaumātua lunches hosted by Te Puna Oranga have been a highlight on the social calendars for Ōtautahi kaumātua. The first lunch initally had just over a dozen attendees and their biggest lunch had 230 people with about 400 people registering their interest for the event. But for such a popular and large event, the kaumātua lunches and the kaumātua service that Te Puna Oranga offers is only a small (but not insignificant), part of the care and support they offer to whānau in Ōtautahi.

Te Puna Oranga is a Māori social service who primarily provide support to whānau who have been affected by sexual violence. They are part of the integrated safety response for family violence in Christchurch and they also run a 24-7 sexual violence crisis line. Kaiwhakahaere Billie-Jean Cassidy strongly emphasises this when she explains the mahi that Te Puna Oranga does, highlighting the range of practical and essential face-to-face support services Te Puna Oranga offer and facilitate including their support for kaumātua.

After the 2011 Christchurch Earthquakes, the Kaiwhakahaere at the time, Tania Mātaki visited a number of kaumātua and found they were isolated in their communities. As a result of wanting to reduce loneliness and to help kaumātua form connections in their communities, the idea of a monthly lunch came about not just to create these all important social networks, but as a way of giving back to a group of people who have given and been through so much in their lifetimes.

The organisation used WAVE funding from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu to cover the costs for the lunches and a Whānau Ora worker (through Manaaki 20) solely supports kaumātua, helping them to navigate and access support they might need or are entitled to in the community.

Held at Ngā Hau e Wha Marae, the monthly lunches have been downsized to three key dates  (Waitangi Day, Matariki and Christmas), due to their overwhelming popularity. A monthly event became too big of an ask for the volunteers who help staff the event – mostly all Te Puna Oranga kaimahi who are experiencing an increasingly full workload. Despite this, Billie-Jean says everyone is happy to help.

“It’s quite fulfilling and one of our tasks is to demonstrate whakawhanaungatanga and mannakitanga. So when people start rolling in, we’re getting them a cup of tea or coffee, chatting to them, helping them to their seats”

“And I think when Tania first started the lunch, that was her intention. It was our way to give back to our community. We’re all there serving, we’ve got a whole lot of runners and waiters and waitresses and they’re all serving the tables and cleaning up afterwards”

Now that there is no longer a monthly lunch, kaumātua have instead formed a monthly ukulele group. This has become so popular, the group has had to move from their original whare to another larger space to be able to accomodate everyone attending.

For the Matariki 2023 lunch, the ukulele group is part of the entertainment line-up, adding to the celebratory and fun atmosphere of the afternoon. It’s been made clear to Billie-Jean and her team that this is what their attendees want from their afternoon out.

“They all like to just sit around and sing and they have a bit of karaoke as well, so people get up and do their numbers. We host focus groups once a year just to check that this is what they want, and they’ve made it clear to us that they do not want guest speakers. They want to just get out of the house, have fun, see friends and meet people.”