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Hands-on help .. Fale Pasifika whanau ola navigator Ana Fakataha demonstrates how to clean a heat pump to ensure it is operating efficiently. PHOTO: CLAIRE ALLISON

by Claire Allison

A project aimed at ensuring Pasifika families are living in warm, dry, healthy homes is under way in Timaru.

Fale Pasifika O Aoraki Trust has received Ministry of Health funding to run a Healthy Homes project, working alongside families with children aged up to 14.

Fale Pasifika O Aoraki is a registered charitable organisation, providing services for Pasifika people including reducing family harm, promoting family wellbeing, budgeting, empowering women, emergency housing and mental health initiatives.

Co-ordinator Wendy Joy said the main aim of the Healthy Homes project was to reduce the number of Pasifika children presenting at hospital with illnesses that could be attributed to living in damp, cold houses.

The project was hands-on, involving visiting families in their home to look at aspects such as insulation, looking for ways to make the home warmer and drier, showing how to clean heat pump filters, providing a mould removal kit, checking to see if there were adequate curtains and whether windows were being opened to allow ventilation.

“And we’re doing a health assessment, making sure everyone is registered with a GP, that they’re up to date with immunisations, and providing education around the New Zealand healthcare system.

Ms Joy said that in the Pacific Islands, healthcare was provided solely at hospitals – there were no GPs – so the education component was important.

“I go in with a Pasifika staff member as well, to bridge any communication and cultural gaps. And where a need is identified, we can provide wrap-round services, or refer families to other services.”

Staff could help check if a household was on the best electricity plan, whether they were entitled to a Community Services card, and provide referrals to health providers and social agencies.

“Our main goal is to get these families warm and dry and to not have sick kids.”

While the weather was warming up, Ms Joy said the project would continue, so prevention work could be carried out before next winter.

The trust was dealing mostly with rental properties, and was keen to get input from property managers and landlords so as to work in a collaborative manner that ensured the best outcomes for everyone involved.

Property managers and landlords are invited to two informal get-togethers being held on October 17 at Community House, at 12.30pm and 6pm.