CMM's early childhood education centre shut its doors for the early part of the national lockdown along with the country’s other 5,000 childcare and pre-school facilities.

Aratupu Preschool & Whānau Hub has been part of life in Papanui for over 40 years, providing

affordable early childhood education and support for low income families. With Māori children representing 60% of enrolments, bicultural learning is an important aspect of Aratupu. Having a qualified social worker, Hannah Sylvester, based permanently onsite as a Whānau Support Worker is another distinctive feature of Aratupu.

Hannah explains that the national lockdown restrictions required new approaches to supporting whānau not only with challenges related to Alert Levels 3 and 4 but with work that had started before Covid-19 upended all of our lives.

“After the lockdown was introduced, I started calling whānau regularly to see if everything was OK at home and to check whether I could be of assistance,” Hannah says.

“Where possible I tried to maintain weekly contact as we wanted whānau to know that we were available and thinking about them. I kept them informed with relevant information and provided useful resources like activities to do at home with tamariki.”

Hannah was also out in the community, delivering essential items to whānau who needed this support and connecting whānau with relevant services. As the lockdown moved deeper into autumn, she obtained funding for several whānau for fire wood and to cover power costs, ensuring they were able to keep warm. She expects to be doing more of this over the coming months as staying indoors over winter means there is increased need to heat poorly insulated homes.

As Level 4 came to an end, Hannah contacted whānau about reengaging their tamariki at Aratupu, explaining what staff were doing to keep children safe once the Hub reopened fully.

Aratupu Manager Katie says teachers were excited to be able to return to kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face) work with tamariki, welcoming 10 children back in the first week of Level 3.

“It was amazing to settle back into business as usual but with the little bit more cleaning that’s now required,” Katie says. Over the following week the Aratupu bubble increased, with seven more children returning and team welcoming everyone else back on Monday 18 May.

"Being able to reconnect and support our whānau is essential as the NZ team of five million go about regaining our lives in a new normal," says Katie.

Aratupu Manager Katie