South Auckland church helps at-risk families struggling to self-isolate

With Omicron spreading at an alarming rate, one South Auckland church leader is calling on fellow priests and ministers to put their hands up to help those needing to self-isolate.

A defining feature of Māngere in South Auckland is the number of large churches.

The suburb is also full of sleep-outs, converted garages and portable cabins. These are clear indications of a community struggling with an under-supply of affordable housing.

Then there are the over 3,700 active Covid cases in South Auckland.

It’s struggling to deal with them, given the extra pressure that self-isolation rules obviously place on overcrowded households.

But Reverend Victor Pouesi (pictured) says churches like his EFKS congregation in Māngere East are uniquely equipped to be able to help.

Pouesi has been supporting 14 boys recuperating from Omicron inside his church’s large hall.

The boys, whose families all attend the church, had been away as a group together when their families became exposed to the virus.

They were initially invited to stay at the hall to avoid catching it themselves.

It turned out most of the group was infected anyway, so they have to stay where they are until they return negative tests.

He explains his church has relatively new facilities, including a kitchen and recreation space, which makes it ideal for isolating young men in their late teens and 20s.

Along with health and wellbeing checks undertaken by South Seas Healthcare staff (Otara’s largest Pacific health provider), the minister keeps in touch with his young guests.

“Every night we hold our evening prayer service to encourage them and make sure they are doing OK mentally. And given they are all friends, they’ve been saying that even though they tested positive they have enjoyed being able to support each other”.

Pouesi, who has just recovered from Covid, says almost his entire 90-family congregation is currently self-isolating.

“We haven’t really been affected as we are all vaccinated and most have had the booster”, he says.

This is the second outbreak at the church since the pandemic began. The first was in March 2020.

“In a way, we have learnt a very valuable lesson about the importance of complying with the Ministry of Health and working with the Pacific providers who have helped us a lot”, Pouesi says.

“I actually think the Lord has prepared us for this as we installed all the technology needed to run home services back in 2017, so we’ve been able to stay connected right through this time”.

He would like his church to continue to be used as a self-isolation facility for South Seas to use once the boys leave, if possible.

“There are so many churches in South Auckland, but they have been pretty much locked down – due to attendance restrictions for church services – so we might as well use them in this way” he says.

South Seas Healthcare agrees saying that as Omicron’s spread accelerates the Ministry of Health needs to rely more on local organisations.


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News category: New Zealand, Palmerston.

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