The Covid-19 lockdown has been challenging for all New Zealanders. Worries about jobs, our health and the future have preoccupied everyone. However, many Pasifika families have been facing additional stresses. These families are already struggling with reduced incomes and overcrowded homes. However, many are also coping with stranded relatives from the Islands as well as elderly family members needing special care.
The Fono is proud to be making a significant contribution to relieving some of the hardships facing our communities. Thanks to the support of our Whanau Ora funder, Pasifika Futures Ltd, The Fono has distributed over 3,000 support packages to Pasifika households in Auckland.
The support packages are crammed full of the essentials such as canned food and staples such as eggs, flour, toiletries, rubbish bags and nappies.
The whole operation is being overseen by The Fono’s Social Services Manager, Ana Aitcheson and a dedicated team of 50 staff and volunteers. The team has been delivering up to 200 contactless relief packages every day since the lockdown began. From Waiuku to Warkworth, the whole of the Auckland region is covered.
It’s clear that the support packages are making a big difference on the frontline. Often families are experiencing significant hardship and are struggling to put food on the table.
However, the initiative goes beyond distributing food and supplies. Just as important is the advice and support the team is delivering to families in need.
‘We have found that many of our Pasifika community are unsure of where to get help. They find it difficult to advocate for themselves and access the available support,’ explains Ana.
‘As a result, we have been providing additional help and advice. It could be liaising with a landlord or employer, providing financial help with essential bills or simply offering a friendly listening ear.’
And for Ana and the team it’s the heartfelt messages of appreciation and gratitude that keep them going.
‘We have seen plenty of examples of neighbours sharing food and landlords substantially reducing rents for struggling families. The level of goodwill out there is heartening,’ reports Ana.
The relief effort has certainly being a real community initiative. For example, it became apparent within the first few days of lockdown that a larger facility was needed to house the packaging and distribution centre. A call for help went out to The Fono’s network and a warehouse was quickly offered at no cost. Furthermore, offers of help and donations of food and supplies are coming in on a daily basis.
At the start of the lockdown, the Prime Minister invited Kiwis to ‘be strong and be kind’. The team has undoubtedly taken this to heart in their awesome team effort.
Depending on funding, we hope that the initiative will remain in operation until the end of alert level 3. And if you would like to access the service or get involved, then get in touch with Ana Aitcheson on 021 956 633.