Hamilton’s Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust was set up by Kaumātua in 1997. Now, over 20 years later (in normal times), a staff of 18 provide culturally focussed health and education services for over 600 kaumatua.

Rangimahora Reddy, the CEO, says that about a third come to the trust for health and welfare support, a third for community classes and information and a third for social connection – although of course some come for more than one reason.

So when Covid-19 struck, the trust had a job to do.

On the 18th March, staff held a brief consultation with kaumātua from a lifestyles programme and their Kotahitanga Committee to find out what they wanted Rauawaawa to do in the lockdown. Kaumātua asked that they be helped to stay connected, informed and entertained. Facebook was the platform chosen as the means to do just that.

On the following day all the community education programmes were closed down and staff, with the exception of those over 70 or with underlying health issues, completed the only online training they could find – a free WHO course on Covid-19 so everyone could give consistent advice to kaumātua if any questions were asked.

A telephone survey was carried out to help inform the scope of need and the capacity that would be required to serve kaumātua. The need, they discovered over the course of level 4 lockdown, went far beyond their ordinary boundaries of kaumātua living within Hamilton to include those from Raglan and Whatawhata through to Gordonton and Tauwhare.

Funding was received from multiple stakeholders, including Whānau Ora and Te Puni Kōkiri, to support Rauawaawa taking on the role of a packaging and distribution centre for kai and hygiene packs. An 0800 number was implemented to reduce the cost to Kaumātua who needed to phone in with requests for support.

Transport was provided so they could get their flu injections and kaumātua were phoned regularly to check on their needs.

By early May Rauawaawa staff had completed over 800 nursing encounters with kaumātua, delivered over 1000 kai packs and over 400 hygiene packs.

Staff produced over 50 videos which were put on the Rauawaawa Facebook page. In the early days of the lockdown there were videos on safety topics such how to wash your hands properly, or how to use a hand sanitiser or mask – or replacing handkerchiefs with carefully disposed of tissues. Then staff started producing videos on exercises, on nutrition and healthy food ideas, and lots on how to keep fit. Rangimahora says that keeping kaumātua moving during the time they were confined to their homes was really important for their ongoing mental and physical health, so staff produced exercise videos on topics like how to breathe properly, how to improve circulation, upper body exercises, strength and balance exercises and lots on dance – such as zumba, hokey tokey and the twist: all with the music that the kaumātua were known to love.

During the lockdown Rauawaawa’s Facebook followers increased by over 400 and there were over 90 posts, as staff turned into actors and increasing numbers of kaumātua logged on to keep connected, informed and entertained.