Nursing to good health
Tausilia Letufuga recalls plenty of jobs being available when she arrived in Gisborne city as a young woman in the mid-1970s.
“I got a job at the Watties factory,” she recalls.
“It was easy to find jobs because of Watties, the freezing works and the seasonal work in the orchards. The money was good, too. I was able to send money back to family in Samoa.”
Job opportunities attracted family members, including her mother, and other Samoans. With it church congregations and community groups were formed.
By the early 1990s, however, the Watties factory and Kaiti freezing works on the Gisborne waterfront had closed. Her mother returned to Samoa and other families to Auckland for employment.
But Tausilia, who loves Gisborne’s beauty and lifestyle, was determined to stay.
She always enjoyed caring for people, and worked for IHC helping disabled children. When the UCOL tertiary institution opened in Gisborne, Tausilia enrolled in its Bachelor of Nursing programme.
She and her late sister Fale were both active in the Pacific Island Community Trust (PICT) Tairawhiti (Aere Tai’s Gisborne Provider) since the late 1980s, with Tausilia always keen to get local Pacific people involved in various health initiatives, no matter who was running them.
Tausilia and Fale were involved in setting up a PICT memorandum with the local Ngati Porou in 2005. Tausilia now works for Turanga Health, which last year had a contract to do elderly check-ups for the local community.
When that contract wasn’t renewed, Tausilia offered her services for free to ensure the elderly Pacific population were being attended to.
“The elderly Pacific population is growing in Gisborne, but not enough of them are being monitored to make sure they’re healthy and taking their medication,” she says.
“It has always been my dream to have a Pacific health clinic, but my priority is giving the best care for our people, wherever they are, even if I’m not being paid for it.”
Tausilia finds the best way to do that is by taking services to the people and community, holding events which attract large numbers of people to receive health checks.
She’s also proud of the PICT home on Palmerston St, where the Pacific community gather.
“My sister and I and the Trust did a lot of fundraising and we’re very proud to see it being used by our people, especially when the mobile clinic truck arrives to do health checks.”
Tausilia hopes that as part of the Aere Tai Collective they can share knowledge and gain more contracts for the Trust, regaining profile within the district they’re proud to call home.
“When we had the Aere Tai launch in Hamilton, it was amazing. Being among other Pacific people working in health across the region and thinking of the possibilities felt like a dream come true.”
“In Gisborne, we’re even more isolated than other providers in the Collective, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to getting our Trust (PICT) up and running again in health services, because our community truly does need to access them.”