Knowledge is a tool to empowerment, and with this in mind, Niue Wellington COVID-19 Action Group has set about educating its community throughout the pandemic.
Project Lead for the Niue Wellington COVID-19 Action Group Dr Alvin Mitikulena (pictured) says during the past two years, there has been a lack of understanding and knowledge about COVID-19 within the Niue community in Wellington.
“Where and how to get help when you become unwell and how to safely isolate in particular seems to be a common challenge,” Alvin says.
“Consequently, our community sometimes feels left out and hesitant to seek out help when they most need it.”
The Kilbirnie general practitioner adds government guidelines and mandates have not been properly and widely understood for a variety of reasons, not least the rapidity within which these have been put out.
“There has also been an undercurrent of misinformation and a sense of fear or distrust of the whole system within the community which has been divisive and challenging to counter, sometimes enough to sway individuals and families to opt out of vaccination or to delay having them, sometimes to their own detriment.”
With the spotlight shining on these challenges and issues, the Action Group applied for support from round one of the Pacific Aotearoa Community Outreach Fund and were successful recipients of $30,000.
“We wanted to build on the two COVID-19 vaccination events we helped run in September and October 2021 targeting our Niue community residing in Wellington.
“The group realised there was still a lot more that needed to be done to educate our community about COVID-19 and its impact, but also to put a more familiar community face delivering services, traditionally done through mainstream or other Pacific providers.”
Alvin says the Ministry for Pacific Peoples funding has helped the Wellington Niue community immensely throughout the first surge of the pandemic, by providing COVID care packs, language appropriate education about COVID-19, how and where to access help when needed, understanding government alert levels, the traffic light system and vaccination, passport and testing processes.
“It has given the community a real sense of ease and comfort in being able to reach out for help due to having familiar faces and people like them delivering COVID care work.”
The Action Group team has been working across four project workstreams: COVID-19 Awareness Workshops, vaccination events, COVID care packs and COVID Care, and together, the team has engaged with many Niue people and their magafaoa, along with delivering over 100 COVID care packs.
Alvin says the team hopes to build further on what it has started.
“While a major focus will be on sustaining the health and well-being of the Niue Community amidst the pandemic, we have carefully considered how COVID-19 has impacted on other elements of our community so far.
“This has helped to inform how we respond in a dynamic and sustainable way going forward, for example, raising awareness about the importance of flu vaccinations as well as being alert to the newer variants of Omicron.
“We will also look at how we can use the Niue language more effectively in communicating messages around COVID-19 to target our New Zealand-born Niue young people in particular and giving them the added benefit of learning the Niue language in a useful and fun way as well.”
By working collaboratively with other Niue Wellington organisations, the Action Group aims to accomplish some of their goals in the first phase of our campaign.
“We really value these relationships and especially going forward as we collectively want to see our Niue Wellington community flourish in this new normal.”
Round two of the Pacific Aotearoa Community Outreach Omicron Response Fund is currently open, and MPP is encouraging groups and individuals with initiatives in mind, to apply.
Visit the MPP website for more information.
Applications close on June 30.