The charity taking a 'strength-based approach' to helping whānau

Guided by the principles of kaupapa Māori, a Hastings-based charity is providing access to support services for vulnerable members of its community.

Ko Wai Tōu Ingoa Hauora offers mobile support to people in need in the Hawke's Bay region, from Wairoa to Takapau.

The charitable trust is one of the inspiring organisations chosen to take part in Z Energy's (Z) Good in the Hood campaign for 2023. Good in the Hood supports local community groups by giving them a share of $1 million to do good in their neighbourhood.  

Driven by the belief that it takes a village to raise a child, one of the key focuses of the charity is working with young people. Catering to the needs of tamariki and rangatahi aged five to 24, the charity offers pastoral support and mentorships to "help build resilience in safe and well-supported environments".  

It also works closely with local whānau, providing psychosocial support to help adults and families deal with issues such as poverty, joblessness, homelessness, food insecurity, family harm and child neglect.

Stacy Apiata, the charity's CEO, says most people connect with the trust through "word of mouth", with people in need either reaching out directly or being put in contact with the charity via a friend or family member. A small number of referrals also come via police through their tikanga-based voluntary AWHI referral system.

Apiata says no matter who the charity works with, it always takes a "strength-based approach", focusing on the positive aspect of any situation and treating people like family. 

Ko Wai Tōu Ingoa Hauora was established in 2020 and was formed as a direct result of Apiata's previous work in the mental health sector, where he saw too many people "falling through the gaps". One reason for this, he says, is that all too often vulnerable people are forced to wait too long to get the help they need. 

Based on that experience, Apiata and his small team make it a priority to respond quickly to people reaching out for assistance.

"When someone reaches out for help you've only got a small window of opportunity in order to implement some support to them before they lose interest," says Apiata.

"As part of our service support to people, when they send us a referral we have to respond within 72 hours. If it's a crisis situation, we respond within an hour."

Another central pillar of the trust's approach is using a kaupapa Māori framework, based on concepts like aroha, whanaungatanga and manaakitanga - with the goal of "creating a place where people are included and they feel like they're part of something, part of a family". 

One aspect of this, says Apiata, is "firstly making sure the people we support are safe", and subsequently "through the journey we keep them informed".

The charity also draws on the te ao Māori concept of tuakana-teina, referring to the relationship between an older (tuakana) person or family member and a younger (teina) person.

"We utilise tuakana–teina as although we may come across as knowing everything and giving them the answers, we're only there for a brief moment in time in their lives to give them the advice and reasoning to make good, wholesome and proper choices," says Apiata. "When they become empowered for change they then become the tuakana and can, in turn, then reciprocate what we've taught them to their own whānau." 

As well as their work with youth and whānau, the charity also "supports our kaumātua through the latter stages of life", helping vulnerable elderly members of the community stay connected and active by offering pick-up and drop-off services, as well as social activities such as exercises, weaving, waiata and companionship. It also provides support to members of the rainbow community through its takatāpui service, empowering them to feel comfortable with their identity. 

Apiata and his team also act as a bridge to other service providers when necessary.

"We know that we can't do all the work so we make sure that the barriers to accessing other services' support are minimal for our whānau."

Apiata estimates the charity helps more than a thousand people each year, with funding for its work coming predominantly through fundraising, grants and "donations from people who care about us". He says he is "humbled and thankful" to be chosen to take part in Good in the Hood. 

"It's humbling to know that people are acknowledging our work," he says, adding that rather than talk about what the charity does he would "rather show it through our actions". 

"At the end of the day, for us, it's about making sure that our whānau feel supported, that they feel validated, and that they know there are people they can lean on when they need to."

This year, Z will surpass the $10 million milestone in donations to community groups and charities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand since 2011, largely enabled through its Good in the Hood programme.    

Article created in partnership with Z Energy