A young Vanuatu woman, who is 29 weeks pregnant, was expecting to be back in her home country by now, after a season working on Hawke's Bay orchards.

But, after two flights were cancelled at the last minute due to Covid-19, she was stranded with no way to get home, no access to maternity care, no maternity or baby clothes, and no idea how to find support.

In stepped the region's Migrant Welfare Group, which works with Hawke's Bay Civil Defence. The membership includes the Office of Ethnic Communities, represented in Hawke's Bay by Rizwaana Latiff, and the Hawke's Bay Multicultural Association.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the work done by the group was an example of the selfless volunteer work going on across Hawke's Bay to get people through the Covid-19 situation.


Hazlehurst put out a call for Hastings Heroes nominations last week; community volunteers who are going the extra mile.

"Everyone is a hero during this time – from our essential and emergency workers making sure we can survive this, to all of us staying home in our bubbles. But I wanted to make sure we did not forget our volunteers, who are quietly going about supporting their communities; ensuring that our most vulnerable have the things they need."

This self-isolation period is tough on everyone. But, for ethnic communities, there are even more challenges, with cultural, language and religious barriers adding to the stress.

Latiff, a registered nurse and midwife with strong links to Hastings District Council, the health authorities, Civil Defence and the region's ethnic communities through her former role as president of the multicultural association, knew Hawke's Bay's estimated 20,000 migrants would need extra help.

First up was mobilising the huge support team, including "champions" from each of the near-20 ethnic communities who had put their hands up over the last two years to be key contacts in times of crisis, forming an effective voluntary communications tree.

The tasks the welfare group have coordinated are many and varied: Arranging the making of videos of key health and welfare messages in 12 languages (with more on the way), finding halal suppliers still able to provide meat, supporting Pacific islanders stuck in New Zealand and stressed after last week's "monster storm" swept through the region leaving them unable to contact families, assisting families about to embark on home schooling their children, helping with immigration and employment issues, and preparing food parcels.

And, of course, the expectant mum - a call to the health authorities secured funded maternity care, and the region's Indian community has provided three boxes of maternity and baby clothing.

Nominate Hastings Heroes on the council's Facebook page, by emailing hastingsheroes@hdc.govt.nz, or call Hastings District councillors Malcolm Dixon: 0272031011 or Damon Harvey: 021288677