New Zealanders are now a few weeks into lockdown and are collectively experiencing something previously inconceivable. New concepts like social distancing and the bubble have entered everyday language. Lockdown has also ushered in a time of uncertain economic futures, working out new technologies or negotiating whānau dynamics. For many, responding to the needs of the community has also been a focus.
A common refrain during lockdown has been about refocussing and looking to our immediate community for support. This has been the case for new Leadership Network member Richard Joyce.
Earlier this year, Richard made the decision to leave his job at ANZ Bank to focus on hockey in the build up to the Tokyo Olympics. However, with the Olympics postponed and lockdown curtailing training sessions, he found he had time on his hands and wanted to put it to good use in his community.
Richard has teamed up with his Black Sticks teammates to act as delivery workers, dropping off medicine in place of regular drivers who are at higher risk due to COVID-19. The medicine is delivered to rest homes, hospitals and individuals that don’t have the ability to get to the pharmacy.
“A teammate’s sister manages the pharmacy that delivers medicine to the greater Auckland region. The regular drivers are over 70, therefore homebound over this period, Richard says.
"It was a simple decision for me. I feel fortunate to have an opportunity to help the community. It’s nice to be a small cog in the wheel during these uncertain times.”
In a similar vein, Advisory Board member Rāniera Kaio is part of the voluntary team delivering care packs for kaumātua (elderly) and vulnerable whānau belonging to local iwi – Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa/Ngāpuhi ki Whangaroa – in and around Kāeo. As Chair for his marae, the current situation has led to some difficult calls including shutting down marae for the first time in living memory.
"The harsh reality is those difficult decisions are necessary to ensure the safety of all our people," he says.
"The 1918-19 influenza devastated our hapū community. The mass grave in our urupā (cemetery) serves as a reminder.”
Other members have found themselves in the front line utilising their specific skills.
For Nive Sharat Chandran, a recent move to Pukekohe and relevant leadership and operational skills meant she found herself leading the establishment of the Pukekohe Community Based Assessment Centre (CBAC) through her work at ProCare – New Zealand's largest cooperative of healthcare professionals. This was a change in scene for the senior advisor to the ProCare leadership team but provided an opportunity to step up when it counted.
“It’s been humbling and a huge privilege to serve my community with my skills during this crisis. I am constantly blown away with how quickly everyone (my colleagues at ProCare and members of the community) were able to mobilise to get the CBAC up and running.”
Similarly, Saia Matele was able to support South Seas Healthcare Trust, set up the Pacific-focused COVID-19 testing site in Otara.
This testing and integrated support services hub will soon benefit over 20,000 Pacific people in Otara and have wider benefits to 180,000 Pacific people.
"Our centre enables Pacific families to get tested in their own community and to alleviate additional pressure on families, who may be worrying about where they can access help, Saia says”
For Johanna de Burca and Christey West their community is in Asia and COVID-19 has meant a retooling of their existing work. The co-founders of non-profit Just Peoples deliver projects that improve the lives of people living in poverty.
During the pandemic, they have focused on keeping people safe and helping communities prepare. For example, in Bangladesh they are fundraising for 3D printed ventilators and face shields as well as emergency food parcels to support vulnerable communities, some of which they had recently visited with help from a Foundation travel grant.
“We've been blown away by the support of generous Kiwis donating to these projects," Johanna says.
"Although many are affected by the pandemic themselves, they have still been keen to take action to support vulnerable people in other parts of the world.”
Want to make a difference but not sure where to begin? Leadership Network member Dr Angela Lim encourages people to look around their communities and not be afraid to come up with solutions if they see gaps in what is needed.
When Angela, who runs digital health company Clearhead, saw Healthline struggling with call volumes 10 times larger than normal, her team created an artificial intelligence chatbot to support Kiwis to go through the screening process for COVID-19 in less than five minutes.
While we celebrate those making a difference, it’s important to move at your own pace and take good self-care in the process. And don’t feel that you must do this by yourself.
A number of network members have been working together to set up podcasts, webinars and even just getting together to play games. Angela has some advice for how you can provide support in your community.
“As everyone moves from an offline to an online world, check in on those that are most vulnerable during this period of isolation, especially the elderly who can be quite disconnected. Simple things such as dropping off groceries or picking up the phone for a quick chat will make a huge difference in someone’s ability to cope.”
Do you know of members stepping up during lockdown in New Zealand or Asia? Get in touch and let us know at [email protected].