Last week Brook Turner, VisionWest Community Trust’s Head of Services Development and Partnerships, was interviewed on Rhema. The following blog was written using information from that interview. In it, Brook explains about COVID stress and the work and focus of VisionWest in bringing hope during Auckland’s COVID Alert Level 3 which began on August 12, 2020
Grappling with COVID
New Zealanders have grappled with COVID restrictions in various ways. Some seem relatively unaffected. Others worry about the economy, while others are concerned for their health and the health of their whānau. For others, the stresses are far deeper and, while COVID may add to them, those stresses also exist outside of COVID. You see, the reality for many communities, individuals and families out there is that they are struggling during COVID in a similar way to which they have been struggling all year.
As a Community Trust, VisionWest’s response to COVID has been to continue to do what we always do. That is, while putting procedures in place that ensure we follow all pandemic regulations, we continue to help those vulnerable whānau who feel the stresses and struggle daily. As always, we’re doing this by taking a whānau-centric approach and working alongside each person, listening carefully to discover what they are dealing with and answering those needs with our wraparound care.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, one of our budgeting clients—a solo mum with two children—was working with her financial mentor only to reveal that, right at the start of Alert Level 3, she had become homeless. Her mentor saw the obvious need that was greater than her financial challenges and immediately put a referral through to our Community Housing service. The mum and her children were able to be placed in an apartment within a hotel that we are leasing during the COVID period.
The Stresses of COVID
We are aware of how life in a COVID world adds stress and mental health factors to the lives of individuals and work hard to provide whatever service supports whānau need to find some relief from that stress.
The challenge of isolation is a huge issue for many. We’ve seen the effect of this in terms of an increase in people reaching out to us for trauma support and counselling support. And, I don’t think we’ve seen the full effect of that yet.
For example, the other day we supported one of our Home HealthCare clients. An elderly man, he usually had his food bought for him and dropped off. COVID prevented that so now we deliver a food box to his door. The point is, these sorts of practical things make a world of difference to people, but nothing is a substitute for human connection—without it, our mental health suffers.
For others the risk of COVID is real. Especially for the Pasifika and Māori communities after the recent outbreak began within a Pasifika family. Any one of us who had a COVID scare in our extended family would be concerned, and so it is for our Pasifika community for whom community and relationship are so pivotal to daily life. We’re relying on our Māori and Pasifika leaders within VisionWest to lead and guide us through the process of supporting these communities, remembering that there is a heightened stress for all people not just certain communities.
Building Hope During COVID
What it comes down to is giving people hope when they often feel hopelessness. That’s why stories of transformation are so important. It’s when you have stories of transformation that you can share hope.
For example, just this week one of our young people in one of our training programmes found themselves in a violent situation at home. We were able to connect them to our Community Housing team and, like that mother and children I mentioned earlier, provide housing. Since being housed with us in a community (abiding by all health guidelines), they have seen a huge transformation in their mental health. It’s because community offers that aroha and an enhancing of a person’s mana that is so important for people to feel secure and confident.
There is a saying, the only time we have is now. That’s an important reminder, whenever we engage with another person, whether it’s a neighbour over the fence or a work colleague on a Zoom call, make the effort to focus and see only the person in front of you. Put aside your anxiety for what is going to happen tomorrow, focus on bringing encouragement to that other person—that person who may have a grin on their face but inside maybe doing it a bit tough.
We have many people contact us asking if they can help. If you want to help, that would be great. We are currently running a campaign called Let’s Build Hope Together. If you visit our website, you can find out how to join us in building hope in the lives of our community whānau. Just check out:
If you need help, our website also has information about all the supports you can get from VisionWest.
To hear the full Rhema interview with Brook Turner, click here: https://www.rhema.co.nz/shows/show/article/VisionWestinLockdown20