Huringa Pai – Walking the talk

Ngāti Porou Hauora in partnership with Huringa Pai – Where whānau are their own solutions, and their own motivation.

“One step at a time, you can change and move mountains.”

A community-led development to optimise hauora, is essentially what Huringa Pai is all about.

“We started in a very ngāwari way, a very soft way, and I think over time the people themselves have made it stronger. It’s a movement that can take on whatever the whānau need. That is the beauty of it.”

About three years ago a few staff and whānau took to the streets of Kaiti in an effort to gently improve their well-being.

“Two of us started walking and it was just around the block and then increased over time; the people also increased. In 2015 everything else came. The blocks started increasing and the number of participants during lunch times started increasing until it got to 4 blocks, then 5 – 6kms,” says Dr Willem Jordaan of Ngati Porou Hauora and Huringa Pai (now also a Charitable Trust).

Huringa Pai started off ‘very small’ and informally with whanau fitness sessions held two days a week on a Tuesday and a Thursday.

“In that, there was and still is health screening before getting into exercise, we had the instructors being provided by the YMCA, a school providing the hall, so there was a lot of people and a number of agencies that were doing things. We also had a dietitian in the early days running workshops for the whanau on understanding labels when you’re shopping for your kai.”

“It was no secret that we had some of the worst health stats and particularly around diabetes and heart disease so this was to look at something that we could do, it was practical.”

On a small piece of land in Kaiti provided by Ngati Porou Hauora to the community garden, even more people became involved in the Huringa Pai journey. It become more than just a walk around the block, or an odd day in the garden.

“For example, we are running workshops, people are coming in, having a health presentation, going to the Polytech kitchen to do some cooking, learning about kai, cooking healthy kai, going to the gardens harvesting vegetables for that. Then the following day, going off to the Morere hot springs, going for a hikoi and then coming back, having a swim and sharing the kai. It was a complete journey.”

With the core focus being on participation, from the start the kaupapa was fee-free, anyone could attend. There was no membership database, or ethnic criteria.

“It doesn’t matter about what ethnicity you are, how old you are, or who you’re involved with because one of the underlying principles about living healthy longer is what are the barriers that were identified that prevent people from doing things.”

“The main challenges were around financial barriers. So, it was looking at trying to do as much as we could [without money]. It doesn’t cost anything to walk around the block, that’s why it started with that and then the whanau fitness classes they were free, the instructors were paid by another organisation, this is where all the partnering came in.”

They provide a whanau-friendly environment that could cater for everyone.

“Connectedness is key. Being whanau focused where everyone can come along including the children and the nannies and, you know, bring your whole whanau type of thing. I think the other main thing heard from a lot of whanau, is the non-judgemental way that it’s conducted so it doesn’t matter whether you are oversized, leaping around the floor, shaking your bits.”

With the core consideration around participation, it’s also important for Huringa Pai to work toward stopping premature deaths. They started asking the question, ‘what are we actually doing to impact that positively?’

“That’s when Ngati Porou Hauora created our own dashboard of health statistics as we didn’t have specific Ngati Porou Hauora data available from the regional or national databases to answer the question, ‘what impact are we making?’. We certainly didn’t seem to be doing well to date, we still had the highest ‘avoidable’ deaths, we still had high rates of cardiac and other chronic illnesses, with many persons having several such illnesses.”

The vision of Huringa Pai is simple – It’s about ‘whānau connecting to whānau and whenua living healthy, living longer’. Which ties into the Ngati Porou Hauora mission and vision for ‘the next generation living longer and better than the last generation’. NPH is the umbrella organisation for the Huringa Pai kaupapa”, Rose Kahaki (Chief Executive) of NPH explained.

“The Hauora has provided an embryonic place for it to start and then once the whanau have got some feet and wings of their own, then they could start flying themselves.”

“We support staff to lead and then empower families to take over, because the biggest question is ‘how do you motivate a community?’, ‘how do you motivate whanau?’. I think this is a very good example of that ‘motivation’.”

And Huringa Pai is certainly not short of success stories. As part of the local ‘Everest Challenge,’ a 69 year old woman recently climbed Titirangi (Kaiti Hill) approximately 425 times over a seven week period.

Many claim the kaupapa is ‘life changing,’ others say they’re ‘off my meds now.’

“We had a quarter marathon here and there were two of our really large women who had never done any of that before and as they were coming across the bridge before they got to the finish line, probably 8 or 10 whanau from Huringa Pai went out to meet them and walk in with them. One was almost having an asthma attack and we helped her cross the line, and her feet were sore but the two of them came across in line together and they cried and then some of us cried and they just sat down afterwards and were pampered by ‘are you okay?’

“They said, ‘I never believed that I could do that, thank you so much for your motivation to help us get there, because everyone was saying ‘you can do this! We will help you’.”

“To me that was great, even the Chair of the Huringa Pai Trust, who also completed the event, was crying, to think that people who believed that they couldn’t do something physically actually achieved that.”