Kane Rangitonga says help is still needed for people suffering from the Covid-19 fallout.
As much as Covid-19 continues to negatively impact many in Te Awamutu, it is also making the community stronger, says Kainga Aroha Community House manager Kane Rangitonga.
The pandemic brought to light various groups working independently within the community, he said, and it was something that has become a foundation for moving forward in 2021.
“We were an essential organisation during lockdown last year, but it was soon obvious there were pockets of people out there doing their bit to help.
“So, while we had increasing numbers of people needing help, Covid also gave us an opportunity to identify those groups and find ways we can work together. It means we can reach more people in the future.”
That is one of the big takeaways from a very challenging 2020, he said. Another was a more caring approach between neighbours and the response from families who discovered a new appreciation for their children.
“Parents were telling me that they really got to know their kids during lockdown. That’s a really positive outcome.”
Early February saw Kane back on deck after helping run the annual school holiday camp for kids. Kainga Aroha offers a range of services and programmes to support the community, including family support, counselling, advocacy, budgeting and school camps.
This time of year is always busy, he said, but the start of 2021 has seen even more families seek help, primarily through income loss. Covid-19 didn’t create new issues for Kainga Aroha, Kane said, it simply increased the numbers.
During the early 2020 lockdown, Kane delivered medication packs and over 20 food parcels a day, all the while balancing the needs of his own extended whanau. It was a tough time, but he believes Waipā has fared better than many other New Zealand communities.
“There are more families struggling financially than in previous years, for sure. We have seen that over the past few months as people have lost their jobs and found themselves homeless. It’s not unusual for parents to have to balance a good Christmas for their families with the knowledge that the bills will be coming in January,” he added, “but the pandemic made that more pronounced. We gave out over 300 Christmas hampers in 2020 – until then, our highest number was around 200 distributed the previous year.”
More noticeable, too, are the numbers of people struggling with having to seek help.
“Many have never had to approach a social agency for support before. Some believe wrongly that there is a stigma attached to asking for help. It is a difficult transition for those who have always been able to hold a job, feed their families.”
Often, it is other family members who break the ice with the agency, sometimes grandparents enquiring on behalf of their families.
“It all comes down to communication. Once people realise we are here to help, they are usually happy to let us do our job.”