Proudly Samoan, Tongan and Scottish, with a little Hawaiian and Fijian too, Lisa Suapopo-Taylor is a New Zealand-born nurse making a big difference to the Pacific community.
Lisa works for the Tangata Atumotu Trust (TAT), Canterbury’s longest-standing Pacific healthcare provider, which offers wrap-around health and social services to Pacific people living in Christchurch.
“What I love most about Tangata Atumotu is that everything we do is based around acts of alofa (love) for our people,” says Lisa. “We have a natural empathy for others, we understand cultural and ethnic practices, we know how to address people—and we get better responses as a result.”
Supporting Pacific people where they need it most
Te Whatu Ora’s interim Pacific health plan, Ola Manuia, aims to support Pacific families and communities to stay well, and to enable Pacific people to access the care they need, where they need it. Tangata Atumotu’s outreach programme connects health professionals with families in their own homes, and in the community.
Lisa says this is really important. “Recently, we received a referral by the hospital regarding a Pacific family with an unwell child who had missed a number of outpatient appointments.
“We drove to the family’s home and discovered multiple complexities making it difficult for them to get to the hospital—this was a multigenerational household, the father was the only income earner, there was only one car and no money for public transport—and, with English as a second language, there was a barrier when conversing with the hospital over the phone.
“The mum was really worried, but didn’t know who to turn to for help—so we were able to make a big difference to the health of that family by visiting their home, listening to them, and using our community connector who spoke their Pacific language to help them navigate the system.”
The seven cups of tea approach
Lisa says that simply having the time to care is something she loves about her job.
“We call it the seven cups of tea approach. We sit down with people, we drink tea with them, we connect with them. It’s often about the whole family, not just the individual.
“At Tangata Atumotu we achieve high vaccination rates because people trust us. We can immunise people in their own homes if it makes them feel more comfortable. And because we provide a wrap-around service we can connect people with other opportunities, from healthy lifestyle and financial wellness programmes, to traditional crafting and dance classes—and all our services are free.”
Achieving better health outcomes for Pacific people
“We need more Pacific people in all levels of healthcare—we know this leads to better outcomes,” says Lisa.
“For people thinking of getting into the sector, please do! There are real opportunities for you, and you can make such a difference to people’s lives.”
And, Lisa says, she is living the dream. “I love going to work, there is a lot of laughter and alofa. We share food, we include each other. Tangata Atumotu is a magnificent organisation and I’m so proud and happy to do what I do.”
Fa’afetai lava Lisa!