Having started with delivering only eight packages at the start of March, WelTec are now in week four of delivering over 35 kai (food) and care packages to isolating WelTec ākonga (students) and their whānau from Porirua through Upper Hutt and down the Hutt Valley to Wainuiomata.
This has been enabled through the Hardship Support for Learners Fund (HAFL), provided by Te Pukenga, as well as in partnership with Te Rūnanganui o Te Ǡti Awa, in Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt. HAFL is available for all students at WelTec and Whitireia, but the allocation for ākonga Māori studying at WelTec is managed by Hinemoa Priest and the Tamaiti Whāngai team, and has enabled the care and kai package initiative as well as providing direct financial support.
“We started doing the packs as a result of seeing first-hand the impact Covid was having on our ākonga (students) and their whānau (families),” says Hinemoa Priest, Kaiwhakahaere Māori at WelTec.
"To truly get a sense of how far reaching this is, of some 20 students we supported with care packages in week two, a total of 54 adults and 20 tamariki (children) were in the households that received the items,” says Susan Luke Kaitautoko/Tamaiti Whāngai engagement advisor at WelTec who has been working with the team to get the packages made up and delivered using the WelTec van.
The packs include breakfast, lunch and dinner items such as Weetbix, tinned soups, spaghetti, dry pasta, sauce, as well as hygiene products like shampoo, washing powder, tissues and sanitiser. Rapid antigen tests provided by Te Rūnanganui o Te Ati Ǡwa are also included, as well as a letter from WelTec chief executive, Mark Oldershaw, wishing students well and reassuring them that their place on their chosen course of study will be available to them once they have recovered.
Tylah Buckton-Pereira and Te Ao ‘Tee’ Herbert-Te Awa were two students who received packs and are now back on campus.
“To be honest, it meant a lot to me and my four year old daughter,” says solo Mum, Tee, who had to isolate for over two weeks when she and her daughter tested positive.
“When I got Covid not only did I have to stay away from my work at the supermarket in Upper Hutt, which meant I didn't get paid, but I couldn’t go out and get food for us. So it was a big relief when WelTec got in touch to say they had groceries for us. We had something to eat and I could save the money I had for rent and utility bills,” says Tee.
Tylah says it was hugely helpful for her and her whānau while she was isolating from study and her job at Countdown. “I appreciated the heath and hygiene items the most and the best thing was the tissues - it was a life saver as Covid was really bad for me, having all the symptoms at once and difficult to deal with,” she says.
Tee and Tylah are currently in their first year of the Level three Certificate in Collision Repair and Automotive Refinishing at WelTec and are hopeful of an apprenticeship, and landing better paying jobs.
“Each week we get a list of which WelTec students are isolating and we contact them to find out how they are, whether they require kai (food) or hygiene items for themselves or the whānau they live with, and whether they are managing to access the study they need to online,” says Dave Lomax, team leader for the Tamaiti Whāngai team at WelTec.
‘As much as anything else, it is a chance for us to check in with our students and make sure they are coping in uncertain times,” says Dave. “For many of our students, enrolling in tertiary study is intimidating enough and they are often balancing other aspects like work or children, and then there is all of the chaos of Covid on top of everything else. So we want to make sure their health and wellbeing is being looked after number one, and that they are managing to continue with their studies as best possible. In some instances, students don't have laptops and we have partnered with Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa so we can provide to those that need them.”
Five ākonga (students) who have no device at home to enable them to participate in online learning have received laptops via Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa. With help from WelTec a further 10 ākonga are applying Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa.
Te Āti Awa has had a longstanding and strong relationship with WelTec, based on a memorandum of understanding, and a partnership, which supports the success of ākonga Māori to achieve their goals. And it is the support element here that is key.
“The partnership with WelTec has gone from strength to strength allowing us all to better serve our communities - and this has been timely given the need that Covid has driven,” says Wirangi Luke, Te Tumu Whakarae-Chief Executive Officer of Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa.
“As an iwi provider we see the need right in front of us and we need to continue to help with more immediacy and more impact, particularly in turbulent times and times of increasing pressures like the cost of living. Our joint approach with the Tamaiti Whāngai team at WelTec and close ties, helps all of us support akonga Māori, their whānau and communities. This has always been a pathway for us, but we are all getting better at more effectively linking up to provide the support that is needed. The care and kai packages is a fantastic example of this.”
“I am so proud of our Tamaiti Whāngai team and the hands on help they have provided to our students, our role at Whitireia and WelTec is not only to educate, but to care for those in our guardianship,” says Mark Oldershaw, chief executive at Whitireia and WelTec.
“Our close partnership with Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa means that the impact of our support is strengthened - we work together to care for our ākonga and communities,” says Mark.
Ruth Lavelle-Treacy, 021 104 6909, firstname.lastname@example.org