Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 – Rotorua, North Island, NZ
Arianna Bishop and Samantha Beaulieu
Ah Kia Mau! Today was quite the list of adventures!
We began our day in the heart of Rotorua, at the Lakes District Health Board, a hospital that deals with both Pakeha and Maori patients. There we met Phyllis, who is the General Manager of Maori Health. She welcomed us in the lobby with a Powhiri and then a Hongi. We then went upstairs, where we met with her group, who gave us insight on how they go above and beyond to make sure that Maori get the help they need – both in and out of the hospital. The group is known for their follow up home visits that ensure out-patients continue on their positive health journey, as opposed to falling into old habits. Phyllis introduced two woman (a Social Worker and a Nurse)who told us of a new program where they team together to meet the both the physical, social, cultural, and environmental needs of their Maori patients. They described how they “adopted” a woman into their family so that they could help her make medical decisions. They also told us about an elderly woman who couldn’t get her home heated and insulated until she cleaned around and under her house. So wouldn’t you know that these two brilliant woman – both having children and grandchildren themselves – put on their overalls and crawled under that house.
The hospital is also very understanding and lenient on visitor hours and numbers of family in places like the ICU. They understand how important family is the to the Maori, especially during their healing processes, and are willing to accomodate in any way they can. They approach everything holistically, recognizing mental health as the exceptionally important factor it is. That is something so much in contrast with back home, where mental health is often sort of taboo, and rarely talked about.
After our visit, we traveled to the National Kiwi Hatchery of Rainbow Springs Nature Park, New Zealand’s leader in kiwi bird conservation. Our guide told us about how the Department of Conservation finds kiwi eggs in the bush and brings them back to the center, where they are monitored and eventually hatched. This hatchery has an over 95% success rate! Considering kiwi egg success in the wild is less than 30%, this is pretty amazing. We toured through the hatching facilities, but unfortunately, it was the end of the hatching season so we didn’t get to see any kiwi chicks being handled. 🙁 But we did get to see three adult female kiwi! They were so much bigger than we expected! There was also some amazing native wildlife in the park, like the tui and kereru. We also rode on a water ride through the park, and we definitely got a little wet.
That evening, we met with a former rugby player who taught us about the haka. The haka is a traditional Maori chant and dance, traditionally used in times of war. When considering “fight or flight”, the Maori put their best foot forward and fight. With the images of our ancestors and loved ones in mind, we learned this powerful dance and performed it in indigenous garb. We were all incredibly moved by the not only the meaning behind the dance, but being so in tune with our ancestors’ spirits.
It was a busy day but we learned a lot about holistic health, the environment, and our spiritual well-being.