Te Puna is a close knit community in the rural outskirts of Bay Of Plenty. In one tidy whare live Tom and his wife Kahurangi Puru - a whare they have called their home for 30 years. Tom has some health issues and together with his wife Kahu, they have been raising their teenage granddaughter since birth. She has an asthma condition that they monitor regularly.
It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon when we arrive and as we pull up the driveway Tom comes out to greet us. Whānau Ora kaiarahi, Kahurangi Johnson, is welcomed like part of the whānau, the bond between them is warm, natural and trusting. This is a true testament to the time and effort spent together over a few months since meeting. And a clear indication of how much this navigator loves her job and the people she connects with. We are offered scones and a cup of tea as we walk in and their home is comfortable and tidy.
The Puru’s relationship is 44 years in the making which has them politely finishing each others sentences and speaking kindly about one another. Their door is always open to others and one neighbour was just leaving after sharing a cuppa and korero while doing his laundry there.
So how did their whare get the attention it did? They registered with Hauora Te Puna who asked their locals to indicate if they would like their home accessed. And one day there was a knock at their door by members of Collective Impact - a Whānau Ora initiative. It completely surprised both Tom and Kahu that kind people were here to ensure their home was healthy and warm.
Kahu Puru was surprised and explains, “We didn’t know what it was really about when they first came. We felt like other people needed it more, we felt we weren’t worthy enough to have that work done on our whare”.
The survey team thoroughly checked their house, completed a list, and three months later they returned to say they were ready to start repairs and improvements.
The Puru’s had completely forgotten about the visit assuming their home did not meet the requirements.
Tom recalls, “Next thing they were cleaning up and they had lots of cans of paint. Then they started water blasting my home and all of a sudden they were ready to paint. And I said, I would do the painting myself. They gave us the incentive to get in there and help them by doing it ourselves”.
The Collective Impact crew were impressed with his enthusiasm and Tom took on the task of painting the entire exterior of his home with his moko. And they loved completing it together - taking the time to ensure the finished product was done to a professional standard.
The Puru’s were also offered a heat pump but turned it down due to their granddaughter being asthmatic and warm air can trigger an attack. They have never had a heater in their home to protect her. The partners made minor repairs to the exterior of the home which was already insulated and structurally sound. And despite their protests, a balcony was built and painted out the front of their home through the philanthropic local Marae.
For the first time they had an extractor fan installed in their bathroom which had become damp over time due to the condensation and steam. This has completely changed their lives and their faces light up with gratitude and almost disbelief when they talk about it. Tom said the tiny bathroom now seems bigger now they no longer contend with steam and constant dampness. They also received curtains - however they remain folded to one side as Tom intends to replicate the refurbishment in the interior by giving it a new coat of paint.
Tom and Kahu are even more house proud now thanks to the Healthy Homes Initiative and have aspirations to do more maintenance themselves.
Kahu said, “To be honest I didn’t think our house needed to be done - we were not worthy of the attention. You just look at the word ‘whānau ora’ and the help they did for us, real Maoritanga that word Whānau Ora and all of the things they have done”.
To this day Tom and Kahurangi Puru remain shell shocked that someone would look out for them, that someone would want to improve their standard of living, because they still believe that they are not worthy.