Here to help . . . Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group team members (from left) Silou Temoana, Lauao Havili and Uinita Tapaatoutai have been busy packing food parcels for people in need of Covid-19 welfare support. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

As the saying goes, many hands make light work.

The Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group [OPICG] has taken that inspiration, pulling together communities across Waitaki to support people who have tested positive for Covid-19 or are self-isolating.

The Waitaki Covid-19 welfare care network service, a collaboration between the Ministries of Health and Social Development, local community groups and services and iwi partners, aimed to alleviate the immediate hardship and stress for people who had Covid in their households. Assistance included the delivery of food parcels and other essential items, as well as financial assistance and help to access services, such as mental health support.

From Waihemo to Ahuriri, members of the community have rallied to deliver essential items, the migrant community has formed a delivery operation for food parcels, Stronger Waitaki has facilitated stakeholder relationships, and other key health, food and support services have also banded together.

The OPICG received its first referral for support on February 24. Since then, more than 300 food parcels, supporting about 1200 people in Waitaki, have been delivered.

When a referral was received, the OPICG’s triage team, made up of Covid-19 welfare support service co-ordinator Silou Temoana, general manager Hana Halalele, and community connectors Mafa Alaloto and Lauao Havili carried out a needs assessment, involving questions about financial hardship.

Mrs Temoana said people could be reluctant to accept help, but families relying on week-to-week pay cheques needed to know there was help out there.

‘‘Some families, especially large families, because of the staggered infection period, they will be in isolation longer, and when they come out, the bills are stacking up,’’ Mrs Temoana said.

‘‘We make sure they know they are always welcome to come back for assistance.’’

Mrs Halalele said the network highlighted vulnerabilities in the community, such as housing, financial pressures and mental distresses during isolation, and accessibility issues for elderly and those living in rural areas.

‘‘I think it’s a risk we take if we don’t work together and make sure we channel resourcing where it needs to go,’’ Mrs Halalele said.

‘‘At the end of the day, I really think it’s around everyone pulling together, [pooling] all our combined . . . resources together to support a community through a pandemic.’’

In Palmerston, Waihemo Community Board chairwoman Heather McGregor has been busy delivering masks, hand sanitiser and rapid antigen tests (Rats).

Ms McGregor said people were grateful to still have access to items and support while in isolation. She praised the welfare support network’s members for their work across the district.

‘‘[The service] needed to be. We needed to have it for the welfare of the community and it’s basically just having people. . .and services on the spot to help,’’ Ms McGregor said.

In the Waitaki Valley, Ahuriri Community Board chairwoman Vicky Munro, and board members Steve Dalley and Brent Cowles, have been distributing Rats in Otematata.

Mrs Munro said compared with other areas, Otematata had mostly ‘‘escaped’’ Covid-19 , but it was good to offer support when it was needed.

‘‘We’re a very caring community and I know that if anyone did need major help, like our other five towns in our Ahuriri ward, there’d be plenty of people to help and certainly we’ve been helped from the Pasifika programme,’’ Mrs Munro said.

She heaped praise on the OPICG for its work.

‘‘I was absolutely in awe of the Pasifika community and what they were doing for their community overall.’’

The Waitaki Covid-19 welfare care network met fortnightly and identified any gaps needing to be filled. More than 20 people volunteered their time and Mrs Halalele was thrilled by the ‘‘team effort’’.

‘‘[I’m] truly grateful to all the community representatives and volunteers that have helped,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m just delighted at the way everyone’s pulled together. It’s a testament to our community resilience.’’

Mrs Temoana said it had been a ‘‘humbling piece of work’’, helping to ease people’s anxiety around Covid-19.

‘‘It’s the feedback from the recipients of the assistance and the heartfelt gratitude that they show,’’ Mrs Temoana said.

‘‘The little help that we could give, it will relieve them of those worries and that’s humbling to know.’’

The Waitaki Covid-19 welfare care network would receive funding for its work until the end of June, when it would be reviewed. Those needing support from the Covid-19 welfare care network can ring 0800 674-247.