A south Auckland-based Māori health provider says the Covid-19 pandemic has given it a new-perspective on what local marae can be and do for a community in crisis.

Huakina Development Trust, which runs the Pukekohe vaccination centre, has delivered more than 42,000 Covid-19 doses to date, and another 5400 doses at its pop-up events.

The trust offers a diverse range of services including homecare and disability support, social services as well as programme for kaumatua, rangitahi and tamariki.

Maria Clarke (Te Tumu Whakarae/chief executive) said: ‘‘Most of our staff come from marae–growing up on the marae you learn to do all of the work–cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, working as a team which supports our ethos of Manaakitanga.

‘‘This also gave us the flexibility to adapt when there were sudden changes in the Covid framework or if people got ill there would always be someone to take their place to do the mahi. At the vaccination centre, our staff began as 'kaimanaaki’ and learned everything from security to swabbing and vaccinating. We’ve always taken awha ̄nau, kaupapa-based approach and we believe this is what got us through the toughest parts of the pandemic. ’’

But the work is far from over.

‘‘Many whānau are still struggling–whether it be withCovid-19 or financially.

‘‘Last month, we probably dropped off about 80 food packages a week. Last week it was 150 boxes.

‘‘Some whānau got sick and lost their jobs because of their employer’s inability to stay open. So our team is now helping people navigate Work and Income processes. Some whānau have never had to access this support before.

‘‘We’ve also seen the change at the marae...not being able to practice our tikanga...so many changes.

‘‘[The pandemic] created a lot of anxiety about tangihanga and not being able to take their loved one home to lie on their marae. ’’'

Clarke says having a strong team has got them through these challenges. ‘‘We are so thankful for all our staff whānau and their mahi over the last two years, they’ve supported one another to deliver health and social service support especially in the hauora and vaccination space. ’’

With the winter season approaching, Clarke is also keen to ensure that those eligible for a free flu vaccine (people over 65,as well as Māori and Pacific people aged 55 and over), get themselves protected.

‘‘Initially we didn’t have many but now more and more people are using the vaccination centre to get their flu vaccine.

‘‘We think this is another big success from our Covid vaccination programme and the communication through our marae. Everyone now knows that vaccination is good for our community.’’