STORIES FROM THE FRONTLINE: Essential workers during COVID-19

We are living in difficult times. COVID-19 has forced children out of schools, elderly into further isolation and most significantly, it has exposed the crippling social inequalities that the most vulnerable in our communities have endured for far too long. While the rest of New Zealand are on lockdown, essential workers are sacrificing time away from their loved ones to ensure that the country runs smoothly and safely. This mini series aims to raise awareness, encourage hope and honour our people working on the frontline during COVID-19.  

Probation Officer and Youth Worker, Fetalaiga Tapeli shares about her experience on the frontline, working in the criminal justice system. 

Fetalaiga Tapeli: Probation Officer in Court 

It’s unreal. Just a few weeks ago life was normal, people were going about their daily lives and I was preparing for a trip overseas. Daily routines are now an adventure, wearing gloves, face mask and some wearing goggles when leaving the house.

In terms of working in Court, ways of working have changed in that it’s become more developed where we are reliant on technology - lawyers/prosecutors are now able to connect via teleconference and video links, it’s buzzing. Ways of managing offenders in the community and Young People in residential homes have slightly changed as a more suited response to Covid-19. Processes are constantly changing and evolving in order to keep us safe and keep those in our care safe.

It never crossed my mind not to work. I knew Court would still be running in order to keep the wheels of justice turning and I also knew youth work would still be powering through in order to provide services to our young people. I’m blessed that I’m in a position where I get to work with some of Aotearoa’s most vulnerable people and so not working was not an option for me. Having the opportunity to work during this time is another day for me and I’m super grateful.

Youth custody

Fetalaiga Tapeli: Youth worker in youth custody 

Stay home like Aunty Jacinda said. Limiting contact means limiting the spread. Stay at home means nofo i le fale, much trouble means faalavelaves. ‘E sili le puipuia i lo le togafitia - Prevention is better than a cure’ - we all have an important role to play in order to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, staying home is one. Check in on your loved ones, now is a great time to enjoy time with family, have fun, learn a new skill and set some new goals - treat this lockdown as an opportunity/restart.

I’ve seen on social media and in the news messages ‘to be kind to one another.’ I only hope that once this lock down comes to an end, we will remain kind to eachother.

0800REFUGE- Women’s Refuge
0508FAMILY- Oranga Tamariki (Reports of concern for children’s safety)
0508 744 633- SHINE
0800 787 797- Alcohol and drug helpline
0800 543 354 or free text 4357- Lifeline
0800 376 633 - Youthline
0800 111 757 Depression Helpline
0508 828 865 Suicide Prevention Helpline

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