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Connecting during COVID-19: He Waka Tapu

Rātā Foundation loves hearing about all the ways community organisations are adapting to the changing COVID-19 Alert Levels and continuing to provide services and innovative initiatives online, and over the phone.

This story is part of Rātā’s Connecting during COVID-19 series. Visit our Community Stories page for more.

From providing kai to whānau, to operating Canterbury’s only community-run COVID-19 testing station, He Waka Tapu has weathered the storm to continue supporting the community.

He Waka Tapu is a community organisation providing physical, mental, spiritual and family well-being services under a kaupapa Māori framework in Canterbury, Ashburton and Timaru which operated as an essential service provider during lockdown.

When the COVID-19 lockdown came into effect, He Waka Tapu quickly adapted their services and set kaimahi up to work from home.

He Waka Tapu Chief Executive Jackie Burrows says providing stability and consistency through an uncertain time was key.

Their Residential Service remained open and took new referrals, with the space to provide isolation for incoming whaiora and adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, and facilitation of wellbeing workshops were held via Zoom.

She says during lockdown Pataka Kai, a service which provides food and other essentials to whānau and individuals, went mobile to meet demand.

Up to 30 care packages per day filled with vegetables from garden beds on her own property, alongside donated items of food and essentials such as soap and dishwashing liquid, have gone to whānau in need.

Jackie says kaimahi have created solutions and adapted services so that whānau have access to power, wood, food, household supplies, prescriptions, data for the internet, and any other essentials they need, with almost 1500 requests for help completed since the start of lockdown.

One of their most well-received initiatives was the setup of the only community-led COVID-19 testing station in Te Waipounamu, in collaboration with Nga Maata Waka and the Whānau Ora Community Clinic.

Jackie says the point of difference at the testing station is the wellbeing checks, with every patient provided a hot meal at the station and a check-up over the phone the following day.

He Waka Tapu Operations Manager Tanith Petersen says the COVID-19 lockdown saw a rise in domestic violence, increasing demand for their services.

Police figures comparing the week before the lockdown showed a 22 percent increase in investigations, mirroring Women’s Refuge statistics of a 20 per cent increase in calls related to domestic violence.

Tanith says He Waka Tapu has continued to provide and promote 0800 HEYBRO which is the 24/7 number for men who are wanting to keep their whānau safe.

They also started the second round of Takahi te Taniwha, a promotion which addresses the way individuals use alcohol and or drugs, and the impact it has on whānau, using the strengths of Te Ao Maori.

She says having support and access to services like these allow people to reach out and reduce the risk of harm within their bubbles.

The best thing someone can do if they feel like they’re on the edge is to reach out and talk, she says, as it can make a huge difference in ensuring whānau are safe.

For more information on He Waka Tapu and the services they are providing through COVID-19 visit their website: