Te Aka Whai Ora is supporting Aroha Mai Cancer Support Services to improve access to cancer support services for whānau and communities in the Rotorua Rohe.  

Established by a collective of passionate people in response to community concerns about the lack of Māori cancer support services, both locally and nationally, Aroha Mai has been providing cancer care support services for over 18 years in Rotorua.  

Funding from Te Aka Whai Ora has enabled Aroha Mai to extend and expand on their services that focus on educating whānau on the risks associated with cancer, supporting whānau to receive rapid diagnosis, and advocacy and support through diagnosis and treatment. 

Services that Aroha Mai provides include volunteer drivers who take whānau to and from GP and specialist appointments, and treatments in Rotorua, Tauranga, Hamilton, and Auckland hospitals.  

Aroha Mai supports whānau with clarity and understanding of diagnosis, support during post-diagnosis clinical appointments, and provides compassionate counselling and guidance when required.  

Aroha Mai Cancer Support Services founder Bubsie MacFarlane says they provide support to people and their whānau who are navigating through diagnosis and treatment.  

“In most cases, it is not a question of ’What Service do Aroha Mai provide?’ but ‘How can Aroha Mai help you?’  

“We have an open-door policy here, so, if you have any questions or a need, do not be afraid to reach out. It is important to note that our services are not limited to Māori only, we are here for the wider Rotorua community.” 

Aroha Mai has connections with local medical centres which means they can refer patients to the appropriate service when they need support.  Aroha Mai recently gained approval to support cancer patients within the Lakes Hospital which allows them to provide quality care and advocacy for whānau throughout their care. 

Bubsie says that Aroha Mai pae ārahi are visiting cancer wards three days per week, including morning and afternoon. Registrations for support are increasing as whānau become more familiar and comfortable with their presence.  

Te Aka Whai Ora Maiaka Hāpori Deputy Chief Executive Public and Population Health, Selah Hart says cancer care inequities exist in multiple cancer services throughout Aotearoa and Te Aka Whai Ora is committed to improving cancer survival rates for Māori. Cancer care co-ordination and support services currently exist but are not consistently available, supported, or prioritised.  

“We’re proud to be investing in practical on the ground solutions that are making a real difference for patients who are fighting cancer or their whānau who are supporting them,” says Selah.  

From 7 February 2024, the Aroha Mai team have been regularly visiting Lakes Hospital to connect with whānau and offer services and support. Negotiations are currently underway to provide this service at the Taupo hospital.