Te Korowai Mokopuna is an innovative way of supporting some of Aotearoa’s most at risk families. Kaimanaaki Whanau Workers are based at whanau rooms in Barnardos Early Centres in Otara, Mangere, Clendon and Manurewa in South Auckland. They informally identify families with young children and support their varied needs in areas of high deprivation where too many families are struggling with poverty. Some experience more serious issues like violence, mental illness or drug and alcohol addictions. Te Korowai Mokopuna has fostered a sense of community that stems from our early learning centres.

Lady Fisher was a long-time supporter of the work of Barnardos and of our Clendon Early Learning Centre. The Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust continues to provide significant support for this unique programme to continue our mahi, supporting hundreds of families like Lisa’s. 

Lisa walks her two grandchildren to the Early Learning Centre most days. Every so often she stops to have a coffee and chat with Tui, the Kaimaanaki Whanau Worker at the Centre. She knows that Tui is not just a good listener, but is there to support families who need some help. Lisa – didn’t think that included her family. Until one morning, she was so feeling overwhelmed and tired of holding the family together on her own, she opened up about the stresses and worries her family were under.

She talked about how chaotic the house felt. It’s got four bedroom, but there were ten of them living there. Lisa and her husband, their four teenage children (two boys, two girls) and their 22 year old son, his wife and the two grandchildren. 

Even with four of them working, money was tight. The family didn’t have the money to fix their one car which is why she walked her mokopuna to the centre. But it wasn’t really their financial situation she was most worried about. It was her children and grandchildren. 

A few months ago, there was a suicide in the wider whanau that had really shaken the family. The whanau member was a young adult, who had been a rebellious teen, but seemed to have turned her life around. Looking back, Lisa could see things they’d missed, patterns of behaviour. Patterns she thought she could see in her 15 year old son. 

Her 14 year old daughter was really influenced by her friends and was starting to play up. It was particularly worrying because her second boy, now 17 was the same. About the same age he become friends with the wrong crowd, started turning up at school drunk or stoned. It had been pretty rough for a while and he’d dropped out.  

Lisa admitted that when her children were younger, she wasn’t always the mother she should have been. But now she wanted to be there for her grandchildren, and make sure their father doesn’t make the same mistakes she did. But she wasn’t sure she was doing it right because the 4 year old boy talks back and won’t listen to her or his parents. 

Lisa felt lighter for having unloaded her worries. She’d been brought up not to complain, not to share the family business with strangers. But Tui doesn’t feel like a stranger and there were some concrete ways she could help.