There continue to be many stories being told in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake; some in the gloom and doom formula of the mainstream news media, some anecdotes online and spread by word of mouth. Everyone in New Zealand has a connection some how or other. We all want to share in the experience somehow.
This story is one that moved me deeply.
I know a Maori kaumatua, or elder, who lives in the North of New Zealand who had a lot of family in Christchurch. Immediately after the quake, he paid for more than 40 family members to be flown to a family farm in the far north.
It was a shock to the system for the family all round; for the family traumatised by the quake, as it was for the family taking in a large number of people. But also a shift in culture from urban to rural living overnight.
The kids had to quickly get used to the idea of living in tents, using longdrop and portaloo toilets permanently. They learnt how to catch eels in the stream and pigs in the hills. They learnt how to walk several kilometres to a rural school.
The family on the farm approached the kaumatua and asked if he had some money. “Oh some I suppose, what for?”
They told him: “Enough for 15 bags of cement. The ground in the tents is getting muddy, we want to build some concrete pads and make it more comfortable under the tents.
The kaumatua helped out, but said to the family, don’t forget you always have a resource here, just sell some beef to get some cash when you need it, and grow some veges.”
This is as I understand it, the Maori way. When there is a need, family responds. We have heard about people taking others into their homes from Christchurch, but nearly 50 people is something else.
There is a lot of talk in New Zealand right now about something called whanau ora, roughly translating as family wellness. It is a concept government is funding to try and improve the lives of Maori, or potentially have Maori improve their lives for themselves. Many people are cynical about the concept. Many authorities are trying to quantify it in wester health policy terms.
This little story is the perfect example of whanau ora in action. Maori, in touch with their roots, collectively care for one another when a need arises. Everyone mucks in and finds an instant solution.
It may not meet all the rules, and from a distance look rough around the edges, but it is a response to a need. Maori, whatever their circumstance always provide manaakitanga, welcome, hospitality, care and love for others when ever and how ever it is needed. And maybe this model might be far better than so many flawed ones taht we use in western society for health and wellbeing.