A group of women have given up their own household bubbles and rostered days off to look after children in care.
Lomeina Maketi Faaniu and Christina Tarapi are among the carers at Dingwall Trust in Auckland who remained at the residential homes for children away from their families for the whole of lockdown.
They have taken on the role of teacher, sports coach, IT support, and often referee, as well as online shopping, cooking, and cleaning for a large household.
Faaniu has five girls in her care and joined bubbles with Christina Tarapi’s cottage on Dingwall’s 8-hectare site in Papatoetoe.
CEO Claudine Young said the caregivers had sacrificed their own personal lives to ensure the health and safety of the children in their care.
“Our caregivers are absolute heroes, they selflessly put the children’s needs for continuity and reassurance ahead of their own needs.
“Caring for the children at Dingwall, though rewarding, is always a full-on experience, however, in a lockdown just keeping tamariki engaged and amused is a double challenge.”
Faaniu and the caregivers at Dingwall Trust are today’s Lockdown Heroes.
Faaniu said homeschooling was a daily challenge, with all the tamariki talking to their teachers and classmates on different devices at once.
“We have ended up splitting them between the kitchen and the lounge when they need to use their devices because there’s no Wi-Fi in their bedrooms,” she said.
“We are managing though, and the kids are really good at getting on with their schoolwork.”
Faaniu used a family education app so she could see when the girls had completed their work and was able to give them encouragement.
She also needed to arrange virtual access between the girls and their whanau during lockdown because there were no visits.
The former nurse had arranged language lessons in Samoan and te reo, baking lessons, and encouraged the girls to join her for her F45 fitness challenges via Zoom.
She also took daily sports and fitness classes.
Faaniu also had the role of chief cook in the cottage but she said the tamariki had been helping out.
The girls took turns helping cook dinner and had been trying out new recipes.
“The girls love to bake so I have just let them go for it once their schooling is done for the day,” Faaniu said.
“It keeps the tins full for morning and afternoon tea, and we share it with other cottages too.”
All of the children did their bit to look after the Dingwall pet Kunekune pigs.
Faaniu said the third lockdown in less than 18 months was both good and bad.
“This time we are all more worried about transmission because Delta is more infectious, so we are not doing as much in a big collective bubble as last time.
“But it has been easier to adjust to the restrictions. The first time the kids were both scared and excited and we needed to manage the emotions. Now they know what to do and what to expect – we just seemed to slide into lockdown,” she said.
Faaniu said regular exercise meant she was better prepared to cope with the stresses.
“Being able to keep doing workouts online has been amazing and the kids joining in makes it fun and keeps me motivated.”
Like any household, she said there were disagreements and children pushing boundaries.
“We have found the consequence of an early bedtime doesn’t always do the trick in lockdown, so we have come up with a few more practical consequences such as having to go and clean up the plastics drawer!”
Faaniu admits it is hard not being in a bubble with any of her family but she was happy with the way New Zealand and Dingwall had dealt with Covid outbreaks.”
“We know it won’t be forever, and we make up for it by having lots of video calls every week to keep in touch.”
When Auckland reaches level 3 caregivers would be given more physical support with additional staff moved on site to provide downtime for caregivers.
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