Te Puke's Ngā Kākano Foundation is listening to the community - and responding.

The health and community service provider swung into action as soon as the severity of the Covid-19 situation became apparent and has been distributing around 200 care parcels each week of the lockdown in collaboration with Te Arawa Whānau Ora Collective The Daily Cafe, EmpowermentNZ, Colab and Kiwicoast Lions. Seeka has also donated boxes and kiwifruit.

''They are going to our most vulnerable patients and clients - such as the elderly, single mums who may be struggling to be able to do their shopping or those with mobility issues,'' says director Kirsty Maxwell-Crawford.

The packages contain hygiene supplies, food and activity packs for children and adults containing educational booklets and puzzles as well as Covid-19 and health information.

Rosamund Lang receiving a care package.
Rosamund Lang receiving a care package.

Rosamund Lang, who received a care package, says: ''The phone calls and care package were really helpful – it was timed well as we had nothing at home. The tamariki crayons and kaumātua activity packs were entertaining during the lockdown and we enjoyed the Easter eggs too."

But the care package delivery is just the tip of the iceberg.

''It sits alongside an integrated whānau ora emergency response plan, so we are ringing about 700 of our clients/whānau who have health needs to support them to stay well and home as much as possible, or who are living alone or who have mobility or health issues where Covid-19 makes them particularly vulnerable,'' says Kirsty.

The foundation's medical centre is also open - with virtual or telephone consultations - with this proactive approach meaning there has not been a fall off in contact with patients. Staff are also at the pop-up mobile CBACs (community based assessment centres) in Te Puke.

''We actually need people to be looking after themselves, to keep taking their medication and ringing us when they are concerned or feeling unwell, so we've been pro-active in making sure that message stays really high among our patients.''

Ngā Kākano medical centre staff, from left, Mere Skudder, Monica Stevens, Maryann Tuao, Meri-ira Hiki, Gene Hill.
Ngā Kākano medical centre staff, from left, Mere Skudder, Monica Stevens, Maryann Tuao, Meri-ira Hiki, Gene Hill.

Regularly checking on patients has also offered an opportunity to find out what their needs actually are.

''It's not just about a one-way phone call, it is also about hearing what is important for the community and for us as a health centre not to assume that it's just about their blood sugar levels or respiratory issues,'' says Kirsty.

''Yes, those are important, but if people are telling us there are other things that are important to their health then we need to respond.''


That approach has led to a volunteer army being put on standby to mow lawns once restrictions allow and for a bulk slipper order being placed.

''We were getting feedback from elderly diabetic people about difficulty with their feet and it being difficult to purchase slippers, so we have placed an order with The Warehouse that will hopefully be delivered this week.''

Some of the elderly have also expressed concern about the state of their lawns.

''We've heard that it's been quite stressful for them because the person who normally mows their lawns, their services isn't available at the moment, so we've been fortunate to plan ahead and get exemption when we move to Level 3, with social distancing still in place, to be able to mow lawns for the elderly.

"This will allow them to keep active in their gardens and maintain healthy activities they enjoy at home. Colab and Empowerment are going to work with us on this initiative.

''A lot of the elderly say 'oh we're fine' - but we know these things make a big difference and say if this is important for your health, then it is important to us too.''

Another success story has been twice weekly online fitness classes, normally held at the foundation, streamed over Facebook that have attracted an average of 900 views per week.

''We've been really pleased at the whānau uptake and the whole family can join in.''

The foundation is serving more than its own clients.

''We have tried to be as flexible as we can when we are supporting whānau in our community who are not currently patients of Ngā Kākano, because at times like this, it's what we all need to be doing and manaaki is a core part of our values," Kirsty says.