Health Care Assistant marks 20 years of supporting women and whaanau in Botany

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For the last 20 years, Health Care Assistant (HCA) at Botany Downs Birthing Unit Vida Kereopa has seen many changes with the women and whaanau who’ve come into the unit, but her care for them has remained constant.

“It’s important to open up your heart to people that come in. We have people from different nationalities that come to our unit. I want to make them feel comfortable and to awhi them,” Vida says.

Growing up in a big Samoan family in Onehunga, her parents instilled the importance of service to the community which she’s passed onto her two children who also happen to work in health.

“My kids are adults now and they’ve done really well in their careers. My son’s a physiotherapist and my daughter works in the mental health space. They both love their jobs,” she says.

“I remember saying to my son, ‘it doesn’t matter if you have a degree or not. It’s about giving back to people. That’s what you trained for; that’s what you studied for’.”

Starting off as a cleaner at the unit, she soon moved into the HCA role after the previous HCA encouraged her to apply. Vida has guided many of the new HCAs that come into the unit over the years. 

“When new HCAs come in, they’re usually young and quite scared, so I introduce myself and give them a big hug and say ‘it’s okay’,” she says.

“An HCA is many things; it’s a jack of trades. We’re an extra pair of hands for the midwives when they’re busy. I know what to prioritise and what can be left until later. I enjoy helping our staff.”

A portrait of Vida’s pregnant daughter wrapped in a korowai is lovingly displayed in one of the rooms at the birthing unit. Vida has always felt supported by her work whaanau.

“It’s the atmosphere and good people that inspire me to work in this job. It’s a real friendly place. We have a few laughs; you’ve got to have a bit of that in the job. It can’t all be serious,” she says.

“When I lost my brother, I needed a bit of time out because I needed to awhi my family. Coming back to work, I could feel everyone’s love and support. I thank them for that. They’ve always been supportive since I started.”

Vida was recently recognised for her 20-year service by the unit’s Charge Midwife Helenmary Walker and Counties Manukau Health’s General Manager, Women’s Health Mary Burr. Not one for the spotlight, she was humbled by the award.

“I’m not one to rave on about myself; I’m not that kind of person. I like to think of others. I’m a giver more than a receiver.”

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