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A Fresh Start for Family

The house in Massey where Tepoto Tiki and her family moved into a few months ago isn’t big, but it’s dry. And that’s what matters most to the Tuvaluan-born mother of two.

The 30-year-old has had her share of challenges since she came to New Zealand with her grandmother and sister as a teenager looking for work.  Like many from her tiny isolated Pacific nation, she settled in West Auckland.

Tuvaluans are prominent in the region’s horticulture sector, but Tepoto says her most satisfying job was when she worked at a rest home in Johnsonville, Wellington and met her husband Lua’ata.

They came back to Auckland and started a family. While Lua’ata was able to secure a job as a painter, the city’s expensive housing market made it difficult to find suitable accommodation.

In recent years they had lived in a single bedroom in a cold, damp overcrowded house in Henderson. That’s when the problems really began.

“My youngest (son Jayson, now aged two) got bronchitis and all of the family struggled,” says Tepoto, whose daughter Selepa is six years old.  

To make matters worse, Tepoto was diagnosed with diabetes and needed treatment at hospital, but because she did not have Permanent Residency at the time, she was left with hefty bills. 

“I was so stressed and I didn’t know what to do,” she recalls.

As a client of The Fono medical centre in Henderson, Tepoto was referred to the Family Start Waitakere programme.  It’s a child-centred, family-focused, early intervention home visiting programme that works with families with the greatest needs.

Mika Kasuga, who was appointed as the Family Start Support Worker, recalls visiting the crowded, poorly-insulated home and seeing the unpaid hospital bills.

“When I first arrived and saw what Tepoto and the family had to face, I didn’t know where to start,” recalls Mika.

“But the family always remained positive and were prepared to do whatever it took to help ease some of their problems. That made it easier for me to help them.”

Mika supported the family to access legal advice through the Waitemata Community Law Centre that enabled them to secure a parenting order for Jayson. That helped cover the hospital bills relating to Jayson’s treatment for bronchitis.

Mika was careful not to do the paperwork for them, but to guide them through the process. She’s confident the family are now better prepared to cope.    

The family was also referred to Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, who advocated for them and helped to secure new rented accommodation in Massey which is dry and overlooks the expansive suburb.

Tepoto now receives treatment for diabetes, and through Whanau Ora the family were able to access some much-needed furniture for their house.

They’re also accessing The Fono’s community garden and are enjoying their new home.   

Tepoto has not returned to Tuvalu since she arrived in 2002, but has every reason to do so one day.

“I haven’t seen my parents since I left and I would love to bring them here because of the rising sea levels which threaten us,” she says.

“But my priority is to ensure my family here are doing well. Thanks to Mika, The Fono and Family Start, it feels as though it’s finally starting to happen.”

Family Start Waitakere

Family Start is a child-centred, family-focused, early intervention home visiting programme that works with families with the greatest needs, to build strengths and capacity to ensure that their children have the best possible start in life. The Fono West delivers the Family Start Waitakere with Family Works and Presbyterian Support (Northern). 

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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.

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