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Standing up for ​whānau

Last Updated: January 2018

Whānau Ora Team Leader, Georgia Kenyon understands what it's like to stand up against a health system that doesn't always seem to be on the side of the people it's meant to be helping.

Two of Georgia's four children were born with a disability. Her son is severely dyslexic. He entered a school system in a time when dyslexia wasn't widely understood, often misdiagnosed or ignored. Her daughter is legally blind.

Determined that the children would lead fulfilling and normal lives Georgia started navigating the health system for her own children first. Those experiences inspired Georgia to help other whānau, and has proved invaluable in her mahi at Tui Ora.

Georgia started work at Tui Ora first as a kaiāwhina in 2016, taking on the role as Whānau Ora Team Leader in September last year.

Trained as a nurse, Georgia says she would have stayed on that career path but advocating on behalf of her kids became a full time job in itself:

"I became very involved in the education side of things. I didn't see why my kids couldn't have a normal education in mainstream schools with a bit more support.

"Just because my daughter was blind we didn't want her to be reliant on services for the rest of her life.

"I wanted to ensure she had the best chance of living independently on her own as an adult. She left home when she finished school, and she is more than capable of looking after herself."

On a day-to-day basis Georgia is working with her team, assessing referrals, working out who in her team is best equipped to help a whānau, and meeting clients herself.

"We are such a blessed team because we have such depth of experience and skills and that's a real strength in supporting our families."

Inspiring whānau is a big part of what the team try to achieve:

"We need to be realistic and it's usually one step at a time. If you can get a whānau thinking about the wellbeing of their kids then that's often a good way to get them moving.

"Ok so you want to get your kids to play sport, then let's work on getting a car to get them there, and on a job that can pay for the dance lessons or the cricket bat or whatever it is."

Georgia says that community today is an abstract concept, with many traditional communities be it school, church or whānau being fragmented, weak or broken. Much of what she and her team try to achieve is about putting that back together.

"Every person has their rightful place to stand in their community. Acknowledging that, respecting that and feeling part of something is healthy, it's good, and it's what we want for our own families and for the whānau we serve."
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