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Kiwi Mum encourages parents to ask for help amidst Covid-19 crisis

As the Covid-19 crisis pushes families to the brink, Kiwi Mum Malaina Tuafa says now is not the time to worry about putting your hand up for a bit of help.

Malaina Tuafa and her four kids are always excited when the food parcel arrives. “It’s like a gift to them,” she says. Malaina wants to encourage other parents to put their hands up if they need help.

I am half Samoan, half Niuean. My husband Lisiate is from Tonga and he works at a recycling plant. He starts work at 4am and finishes around 3pm. Initially we were worried that he might not be able to work during lockdown but luckily it was deemed an essential service.

In 2018, my husband had a heart attack at work. He passed out on the loader but fortunately his work mates knew first aid and they were able to resuscitate him using the defibrillator. He was only 28 years old then.

My husband also has rheumatic fever. It started when we were living in an overcrowded house. Once it was so bad, he had to stay in hospital for several weeks. Now every month he goes to the doctors for an injection. But if he misses it, he starts to feel weak.

Our house can get really draughty in winter and my son has had pneumonia twice. The heater only heats one spot and costs a lot to run. The insulation is polystyrene but we were so desperate to get away from our overcrowded house that we couldn’t be picky. We started from ground zero, with very few possessions but we’ve had a lot of support from friends and family along the way.

Health is so important and ever since Covid-19, we’ve been really strict about hygiene. Sometimes my kids go outside to play and forget to wash their hands with soap. They don’t get a soft reminder from me! They need to understand that good hygiene practice is very important. It stops us all from getting sick.

Money is tight and sometimes it feels like there are bills on top of bills. The pressure gets me down in the dumps a bit. We want to provide the best for our children but often we can’t. They miss out on going to fun places and they see us going through financial stress.

The food parcels are a real blessing. The kids get so excited to look in the box and see what's inside. It’s like a gift to them. As a parent I get quite emotional about it. I think “oh my poor kids, they’re buzzing out on free food”, and it makes me feel a bit inadequate. That maybe I haven’t done enough to provide for them. We do have food at home but this extra bit goes a long way for us. Kids eat a lot!

@UNICEF 2020
@UNICEF 2020

A child helps to make lunch during lockdown at home in New Zealand

There are staples in the food parcels like spaghetti, pasta, peanut butter and some fresh fruit as well. Potatoes, onions, and good vegetables for soups. If I ever have extra bread, I share it with the neighbours.

A lot of Pacific Island parents are too shy to ask for help. They don’t want to show that they’re poor. But a lot of families really need help right now and I know parents that have lost their jobs because of Covid-19. I listen to talkback radio and I found it very humbling to hear people open up about their experiences.

I'm so grateful my kids go to Te Pāpapa School. The teachers are awesome and always give children free sandwiches and apples when they’re hungry.

A child eats lunch
A child eats lunch

A child eats a sandwich for lunch

In the early days of lockdown the kids were really happy that mummy was teaching them but I really take my hat off to their teachers. My son's attention span is so short – how do teachers entertain and educate kids for so long?!

I don't want my kids to live an easy life because then they won't withstand the difficult times. Sometimes hardship makes us stronger. But I want them to be resilient. If anything knocks them down, I want them to get back up and try again.

I have a huge appreciation for people that give without expecting anything in return. There’s so many people helping out in the community. It’s really cool to see that humanity in people during difficult times like this.

If kids aren’t warm and they're not well fed, they're going to get sick and they could die.

Now is not the time to worry about putting your hand up for a bit of help. Nobody is higher than anyone else. We’re all trying to help each other.

To donate to our Food For Kiwi Families campaign, go to: https://covid19.unicef.org.nz/