Paige Harris and Zahira Mohammed are not only part of the hardworking Hei Whakapiki Mauri team; they are also valued members of the Hei Whakapiki Mauri whānau.
Paige started working with Ruth and Gary in February this year. She is very down-to-earth, speaking with such warmth about the Hei Whakapiki Mauri whānau that it’s easy to see that her role is much more than a job.
“Hei Whakapiki Mauri brings people together. They provide connections and in doing so have created a very special community of amazing people.
“I really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the whānau at the recent hui in New Brighton – it was so lovely to put faces to names. Everyone was really warm and welcoming. I very much feel like part of the whānau.”
Paige says that she sees the huge impact that Ruth and Gary have on people’s lives and says the support they offer is life-changing.
“Ruth and Gary make a big difference. Through Hei Whakapiki Mauri they give people the freedom to choose and empower them to live life their own way. And it’s not just one person whose lives they touch – it’s that one person and their family, plus another 69 people and their families. That’s a lot of people.”
Originally from Fiji, Zahira has been working with Hei Whakapiki Mauri for almost two years now, bringing with her significant experience from similar roles, as well as her bubbly personality.
“I have loved meeting new people and learning about a new culture, and am honoured to have been invited into a new community.”
Zahira says the role is very rewarding and loves that no two days are ever the same.
“I love the flexibility and variety of my role. The first week I was heading off to Dunedin, then travelling to Palmerston North and Invercargill, and at least once a week I go with Gary to Wellington. I have also been on a number of the activities that Hei Whakapiki Mauri organise and can occasionally be found baking too!”
Zahira is currently studying for her New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Level Four) Advanced Support, through industry training organisation Careerforce, and says being involved with Hei Whakapiki Mauri has greatly helped with her studies.
“Ruth and Gary encourage me to ask a lot of questions, so it has been great to be able to experience first-hand the important work they are involved in, including the advocacy work they do at a national level.
“They have also enabled me to study around my work, which has been really important. Ruth and Gary – and the wider Hei Whakapiki Mauri whānau – have shown me immense support over the time I have been here, so I very much feel like a part of the whānau now.”
Paige agrees. “It’s like going to work with your family.”