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Providing Peace for Vaiamoe

With a mokopuna of more than 80 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Vaiamoe Salu had plenty of family support for the funeral of his wife Lavinia Te Aroha, who passed away on October 8 at age 76. 

Hundreds of friends and family from Northland and beyond paid tribute to Lavinia, who lay in state at Otiria Marae in Moerewa before her burial at Ruatangata urupa.

For Vaiamoe, managing to cope with the passing of his wife of 28 years was boosted not only by his loved ones, but by Falesiu Fotu, Whanau Ora Navigator at The Fono Northland in Kaikohe.

“Lavinia had been sick for many months. She had lots of problems, with a bad back, two knee operations, a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and her smoking. I managed to quit years ago, but I couldn’t get my wife to quit,” he recalls. 

“When she was admitted to hospital, I knew she may not return.”  

The biggest challenge Vaiamoe had in trying to visit his sick wife in hospital was transport.

The family live in the remote district of Matawaia. While it doesn’t look too far from Kaikohe on the map, Falesiu says the roads around Matawaia are gravel, which takes more time and a greater toll on the vehicle.

“The family car didn’t have a warrant and wasn’t roadworthy, and it’s more than half an hour’s drive,” says Falesiu.

“We realised the best way to help the family was to get the car running properly and legally.”

Through Whanau Ora support, Vaiamoe was assisted with new tyres and had the vehicle warranted, enabling him to visit his wife in hospital on a regular basis.

Having the ability to regularly visit and comfort his sick wife was most important for Vaiamoe. Support from his Whanau Ora Navigator was crucial to achieving this for him.

A boilermaker by trade, Vaiamoe arrived in New Zealand from Samoa in the mid-1960s. He first met Lavinia in Auckland and they moved up to her Northland homeland in 1970 where they raised a family and Vaiamoe worked at the Affco freezing works in Moerewa.

Falesiu says employment opportunities have diminished since then, and Vaiamoe, now 68, is well retired. With a steadily growing number of Pacific people choosing Northland as their place to live, she says it’s increasingly important for the area to be able to provide the health and social services needed.

Whanau Ora linked Vaiamoe to a Samoan group in Whangarei to assist him to maintain his cultural connections. Falesiu also encouraged additional support for Vaiamoe from other family members, which is vital for him when living in such a remote area.

Vaiamoe is grateful The Fono has been able to support him in his time of need.

“I’m grateful to the Fono for giving me the support that enabled me to spend those final few weeks with Lavinia before she passed away into God’s hands. She was accepting and at peace and being there to see that has given me peace, too.”

Image caption: Vaiamoe Salu and Falesiu Fotu, Whanau Ora Navigator

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