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Unsung heroes recognised


May 28, 2008

Unsung heroes recognised for changing their communities’ lives

An inaugural thank you celebration for 21 unsung heroes making huge changes in their communities’ quality of life is taking place in Auckland on June 4th.

All local community members, these unsung heroes have all been chosen for their Mana, motivation and leadership to run a range of programmes that in many cases were originally marae-based. Quietly and behind the scenes, these dedicated neighbourhood parents, Pacific leaders, Kaiwhakahaere (Maori sports leaders) and Arataki (Marae co-ordinators) have for the last one to three years been radically changing the lifestyles of their communities across North, South and Central Auckland.

They can all be credited with lightening not only their communities’ waistlines but also their spirits, says ProCare Health Promotion Manager Nicola Young.

Activities they are running include physical activity, nutrition and social programmes aimed at improving people’s well-being – such as badminton, line dancing, sports and nutrition lessons. Their achievements range from reconnecting isolated, lonely people, to rebuilding a community sense, or some participants losing more than 20 kilos!

“In many cases the programmes these leaders are running are about improving people’s individual health through a healthy lifestyle,” says Nicola. “But just as importantly, they are also about reconnecting communities socially. More than 1200 people every year are being helped by the programmes in Auckland - and really it’s more because you multiply that by their families being positively affected.”

Nicola says the programmes also aim to bridge the disconnection between people and health services that often happens when community structures break down or small groups are isolated.

“When people are sick or need help we want them to be connected and trusting of their communities, and to feel that their health services are a friendly, understanding, affordable part of their community - not inaccessible or too scary to contemplate.”

ProCare manages three Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) which fund the Lifestyle and Neighbourhood programmes across Auckland. In each area the ProCare PHO partners with local trusts, marae-based organisations, sports trusts, and local government to deliver the programmes and the Lifestyle Co-ordinator or marae positions. Each programme is developed differently according to the needs of the local community and to build local ownership.

Often the programme picks up participants who have finished Green Prescription courses and offers them a long-term helping hand. Once trust has been built with participants, the Lifestyle Co-ordinators often find they can refer people to other appropriate groups such as family budgeting, smokefree or social services, with people more likely to actually follow through.

The Lifestyle Co-ordinators, Kaiwhakahaere and Arataki involved in these programmes are all truly amazing, dedicated people who have stepped forward and have taken time out from their families and whanau and often other full time jobs to help others, Nicola says.

“This Lifestyle Co-ordinators Achievement Day is being held as a huge thank you for the amazing work these community members are undertaking. They are all working selflessly without want of the limelight, but they deserve recognition.

“We’re also seeing many of our Co-ordinators gain such a sense of confidence that they are going on to actively work and lobby for other community groups and voluntary groups. They should be closely watched as the next generation of community leaders.”

ProCare is holding the Lifestyle Co-ordinators Achievement Day at the Onehunga Community Centre on June 4th at 9.30am. It will include presentations of gifts and area programme overviews.


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