Kia ekengia te waka i runga i te moana pukepuke!
The sea may be choppy but it can still be navigated.

Te Aroha Noa was established over 30 years ago in the low-income suburb of Highbury in Palmerston North. Today it has 48 staff, many part-time, some of whom have moved from being learners to tutors. It is an active community hub, providing services to people of all ages.

As an essential service Te Aroha Noa continued to support their community during the Alert Levels 4 and 3.

As the Level 4 came into place, the staff running He Ngākau Mātua, the young parents’ programme, worked with each of the whānau to develop a plan. They helped people get Skinny Jump free modems, delivered resource/activity packs and a new mobile phone. During the lockdown there were texts, group chats and phone calls. Their phones were regularly topped up and internet connection maintained, so the communication could continue. As Donna MacNicol, the CE, explains: “We kept a close supportive eye whilst not overwhelming our māmās and their wider whānau during this time. The young women call when they need anything and we are able to respond quickly and efficiently. We also, unlike most of the country, kept our HIPPY programme going. Before the nation went into lockdown our team made up four weeks’ worth of HIPPY resource packs for our 39 families and dropped them to their front doors. This has enabled us to still continue our weekly HIPPY visits with our families via Messenger, Zoom or telephone.”

Meanwhile the Community Engagement team was running interactive sessions on the Te Aroha Noa Facebook page, including aerobics and coffee catch-ups. The page also provided tips around mental health and fun ideas to keep whānau positive and inspired.

The Family/Whānau Development team of social workers also continued to keep in touch with families through phone calls, emails, Zoom and FaceTime, as well as providing families with essential resources.

The Counselling Team has provided support via phone calls, Zoom or Skype. Some parents/caregivers took up the challenge of starting their own regular special playtimes with their child and then discussing how these have gone in their weekly phone call. People newly referred to the service were offered 1-3 sessions, helping them deal with the issues that they were facing during the lockdown period, including parenting support.

Dan Torea has been a learner at Te Aroha Noa – and he is now on the Board. He has no doubt about the importance of the organisation, especially in times of crisis: “This place is vital to Highbury. It has helped to change many people’s lives, over many years. It helps our whānau. Everything from the computer courses that help people who don’t know how to use technology – I see them get confidence after those courses – to the parenting courses and the work with rangatahi. The lockdown has meant that the way we work had to change, but I think it has also meant that people got even more personal support for whatever they needed. Perhaps it was a power bill that needed paying. The organisation was reaching out to everyone. Te Aroha Noa has shown its true heart. It’s been awesome.”