Marae boss honours efforts of ‘awesome staff’
About a month ago, at the peak of the current Omicron outbreak, Papakura Marae was juggling delivering food parcels to close to 100 isolating whānau – and coping with almost a third of its staff coming down with the virus.
Despite that, marae chief executive officer Tony Kake said spirits remained high and his team of 86 people continued to serve the community.
‘‘Demand was just through the roof for us. One Friday we gave out 98 food parcels – the highest in one day. It hovered around that ... for a couple of weeks,’’ Kake said. ‘‘Now we’re down to about 20 to 25 a day, supporting those in isolation.’’
Staff shortages during the peak were certainly tough, with up to 24 people out of action either isolating with Covid-19 or caring for their tamariki or other people they lived with, he said.
‘‘We had to re-orientate staff ... but we knew it was coming and we were prepared.
‘‘It was quite beautiful seeing people rallying around, coming together, getting the job done.’’
Helping isolating whānau with getting kai on the table is one of the many services the marae juggles every day.
It also runs a successful vaccination centre, having delivered more than 22,000 doses as part of the city-wide roll-out to date, is a testing site, a RATs distribution site and run a clothing bank, among many other things.
A few weeks back, there were huge numbers of people joining the two to three-hour queue at the drive-through for a PCR test: ‘‘The highest number of positive tests we received in a single day was 68.’’
Bringing rapid antigen tests made a massive difference, Kake said.
The marae has distributed ‘‘thousands and thousands’’ of them to their communities, he said.
Although the number of daily cases has dropped recently, and there are fewer whānau isolating at home, Kake is reluctant to take his foot off the accelerator.
His attention remains set on increasing booster rates, especially among those who are most vulnerable and with underlying health conditions, and immunising more tamariki aged 5 to 11.
He credits how far the marae has come to his hard-working staff, who continue to turn up every day.
‘‘It’s on the basis of my awesome staff ... yes we’re fatigued but we’re not out yet.
‘‘We look forward to a break ... but we do want to stay prepared for what’s to come.
‘‘We want to remain agile enough and diverse enough to handle any challenge.’’