This organisation, working in a low-income part of the Hutt Valley, usually runs community education classes on subjects like literacy, financial literacy, computers and technology and te reo and tikanga Māori. They also have a kaumātua support programme: Serenah Nicholson the CE of the Learning Centre and Whānau Family Support attends kaumātua days at Te Mangungu Marae in Naenae and the Wainuiomata Marae, linking people into financial support programmes, and to a group of grandparents raising grandchildren.

When Alert Level 4 was announced, Serenah moved quickly to get two free courses online: a Kaumātua Dance Fit session and a Health and Wellbeing class.

For over 11 years Kokiri Marae has been running Kaumātua Dance Fit classes as part of their Whānau Ora programme – first at their own marae and more recently at a marae in Naenae. Serenah knew about them because she had joined the classes herself and had met the volunteer tutor, Bridgitt White. She asked Bridgitt if she would run the class online and this young woman, a runner up in the 2018 Hutt City Awards for Health and Fitness, stepped up to the challenge of running sessions while looking after two young children.

Bridgitt’s online Kaumātua Dance Fit started early in Level 4 and will continue, if the demand stays the same. There is also now an option, taken up by a smaller number, for a normal class.

Each week about 20 kaumātua log on to the class. The sessions can last up to an hour and include a range of dance forms, finishing up with some gentler yoga and tai chi.

Brigitte says that she gets heaps of thank you emails about the class – “they say it gets them up off the couch and stops them feeling sorry for themselves when they are isolated at home.” One of the participants, Wini Haenga, said that for her, being able to continue with Kaumātua Dance Fit, was important for her mobility: “I have two hip replacements and problems with one of them, so my balance isn’t good and I need to use my walker some of the time. The Dance Fit exercise helps with my balance.” Once Wini came out of her bubble she asked a friend who had no exercise during the lockdown, to come and join the Dance Fit class too.

The Health and Wellbeing Class, which was about to start as the lockdown arrived, has had very regular weekly attendance by five families – all of them with grandparents looking after grandchildren.

In the meantime, and continuing into Level 2, Serenah and her team have partnered with local organisations to provide food and support for families, including: Takiri mai te Ata; Whanau Ora Programme; Kokiri Seaview Keriana Olsen Marae; Orongomai Marae; Kaibosh Wellington; Petone Maori Wardens and Te Huinga o te Whānau.