The Fono

Health & Social Services

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A family in need

Little more than a decade ago, Steve and Nou Westerlund came to New Zealand from Samoa with their six children in search of a better life. Steve overcame an old car crash injury he suffered in Samoa, and battling to control his Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, put his head down and worked hard for his family. But due to ongoing health issues, his doctor told Steve he had to quit.

Steve went on a sickness benefit and struggled to pay their bills, which were mounting. The benefit barely covered his own bills, let alone getting his children through school.

He began to neglect his own health as he and his wife Nou struggled to find ways to keep their family sheltered and fed with their eight (following the birth of twins in Auckland) children enrolled in school.

“It was a huge struggle for me and the family,” says Steve, who is also a long-time smoker trying to kick the habit.

“We didn’t know of any organisation that could help, so I put my head down and kept on working.”

But he did find help at The Fono in Manurewa.

Steve was identified as an ‘At Risk Individual’, qualifying for planned, proactive care due to the support needed to better manage his health.

This included a range of wrap-around support including medical, dental and family support.

Steve was able to access dental help to address dental problems that had contributed to his health issues and his ongoing struggle to keep on top of his medication.

Steve and his nurse at The Fono were able to address medication issues by building a trusting relationship and growing understanding of medication requirements. Through increased knowledge Steve was empowered to take ownership of his medication, working towards improving his health.

Ane Sin, Whanau Ora Navigator, says Whanau Ora helped with dental aid and provided the family with utilities, preparing meals and providing a laptop for the children’s schoolwork.

June, their 10-year-old daughter, says the laptop was the biggest help for her.

“It made it easier to get information to help with my learning,” says the primary school student who thanked Whanau Ora and The Fono for helping their family.

“They (Whanau Ora) asked what we needed,” says Steve.

“They saw how many children we had and what we were doing to try to provide for them.”

His wife Nou, who works as a cleaner part-time, nods in agreement.

“The service has really helped us, not just with our health, but with our children’s education.”

Their older sons are working, helping with rent for their home and other bills. Steve and Nou want to teach their children the importance of finishing school and pursuing further education for better careers. It’s why they came to New Zealand.

With the help of Whanau Ora they are inching ever closer to their family goals of better health and better education.

“It’s not just a health service and it’s not just for those looking for medical help,” Steve says.

“It’s for what’s needed in the household for the wellbeing of the family.”

Whanau Ora for Families

Whanau Ora is about building the capability and capacity of Pacific families by supporting them to achieve their aspirations in health, housing, education, training and economic development. Whanau Ora is an inclusive approach to providing services and opportunities to families. Working in partnership with families, it empowers them as a whole, rather than focusing separately on the individual and their problems.

At Risk Individuals (ARI)

The ARI programme is available in Counties Manukau, and is aimed at early intervention. Patients with complex needs are supported to develop an integrated care plan with their primary carers such as The Fono, allowing carers to identify patients and then better coordinate services.

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