Empowering whānau, pēpi and tamariki, strengthening communities and improving health inequality is the powerful mission of Te Whetū Oranga Health Services in Tokoroa in the south Waikato.  

Funding from Te Aka Whai Ora has enabled the organisation to respond to the community need for a kaupapa Māori service for hapū māmā in their region. 

“Today, thanks to the funding we’ve received, we’ve been able to bring in more resources like a hāpori social worker, wellchild nurse, and clinical manager, to strengthen delivery of our services,” says Te Whetū Oranga Kaiwhakahaere Matua, General Manager, Zealan Simpkins. 

“Now we can work closely with whānau in their homes, we can respond quickly to referrals and make them feel safer. We can see they’re engaging more with health services.” 

The organisation provides locally tailored kaupapa Māori midwifery services, hapū wānanga, tamariki ora and kaiāwhina services for hapū māmā and whānau across the region. 

Co-director and midwife Kimai Cure says the isolation of whānau makes a service like theirs all that more important. 

“A lot of whānau don’t have the resources.  We used to work with our māmā and refer them to other services that were outside their midwifery requirements,” explains Kimai. 

“Now we can provide an in-house, wraparound service and support them, from midwifery, tamariki ora, social and counselling services.  

“It means we can support hapū māmā from five weeks pregnant and look after them through their pregnancy, labour, birth and post-natal care, and carry on caring for pēpi until they’re 5.”   

Fellow director and midwife Jackie Simpkins says it allows for a more personalised approach. 

Being a midwife is a profession that chooses you. I feel honoured to be in a birth room helping māmā and knowing everyone in there. It’s a privilege, we have many examples of how strong relationships help whānau we work with,” says Jackie. 

“We’re now able to offer so much more, for example supporting hapū māmā with applications for housing, offer her support for kai and a find her a chiropractor.  It’s a small example of what we’re doing that’s touching the lives of whānau. “ 

Kaiwhakahaere Rongoā Clinical Services Manager Tracy Kaponga, who is also a Charge Nurse Manager in the Emergency Department at Tokoroa Hospital, says the reason she’s committed to the kaupapa is simple. 

“My why is because I see inequality every day, babies struggling, māmā struggling, with health, literacy and nowhere to get support.   That is going to change,” says Tracy. 

“Where we see gaps, we can look at how we wrap some support around whānau, so they’re not lost. Whānau know they’re with the same provider, regardless of their journey, and we won’t have to refer them to multiple carers or locations.” 

Zealan says the fact the service has eight kaimahi, is a testament to the difference that like minds can achieve and is thankful for the support of Te Aka Whai Ora. 

Te Aka Whai Ora Maiaka Hapori Deputy Chief Executive Public and Population Health, Selah Hart, says strengthening partnerships with hauora Māori partners ensures the needs of māmā, pēpi and whānau are at the centre.  

“This is part of our Kahu Taurima programme, giving whānau the tools to connect and engage with maternity services from their early weeks of pregnancy through to when their pēpi is born.  By building strong relationships, pēpi will get the care they need in those crucial early years.”