Whanau Orā News

Living Life to the Fullest


At 58 years old, Barbie Tepania, a mother to 5 grown children and a nanny to 12 beautiful mokopuna, knew that she was simply too young to submit to the cancer that had invaded her body.  Sadly, to focus on her tinana Whaea Barbie had to leave the mahi she was so passionate about.

“I was working at Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao when I got my Breast Cancer diagnosis. The whole process was traumatic and it took a huge toll on my body.  It was brutal and I was exhausted but it was during that time I realised what a taonga our health is and I wanted to fight for mine”, explains Barbie.

Instead of being held captive by fear and pain, Barbie decided to take control of her health and wellbeing. This new focus meant Barbie began to think about the steps she would take to build the strength she needed to battle her disease.

After her treatment, Barbie began walking; swimming and exercising but found the shoes she had hurt her feet.  During this time other issues emerged which began causing increasing stress.

“My car wasn’t roadworthy and it was essential because I needed to go to my specialist appointments. We live in a rural area and the hospital is 14 kms away with no public transport available.”


Because the family lived on a main highway, taking a simple morning walk could be treacherous, so Barbie needed not only comfortable footwear but suitable exercising equipment that would allow her to get active while staying safe.

A whānau member put Barbie in touch with Te Arawa Whānau Ora and together with their Paearahi created a Whānau Plan. Their Paearahi also supported them to apply for Whānau Direct.

Whānau Direct offers families support at times when they need it most.  At the same time it ensures that whānau are able to achieve goals they themselves set using their own focus, skills and determination.

Being māuiui for many can create a sense of powerlessness and depression but Barbie wasn’t going to accept that.

As a way to take back that power, Barbie developed a Whānau Plan, a simple, step by step list of goals, she wanted to attain and the timeframe she wanted to do it in. Importantly, this plan meant that Barbie could work through how best to accomplish her goals.

“Growing up, I was always fit and healthy and excelled in sports. I enjoyed spending time with my whānau and valued being a mother and then a grandmother. With the help of Te Arawa Whānau Ora some of that stress was taken away and I could focus on my recovery.”

Te Arawa Whānau Ora is special because instead of creating dependency it seeks to create independence and puts the power to change back into the hands of each whānau member.

The resources provided meant that Barbie could continue on her journey to wellness.  She continues to be active and now exercises daily and is becoming stronger and fitter.  Barbie can now get to her appointments knowing her car is safe and without fear that she may get a fine, which would cause even more financial stress and worry.

“Thankfully, I have my husband and more than ever my whānau, who have supported me through some of my greatest challenges in life and they still continue to support me today as I work towards achieving my goals. I’m so young and have so much to live for.”

To be present in the life of her tamariki, and especially her mokopuna today is what drives Barbie to continue on this powerful and inspirational journey, for the betterment of her well being but most importantly for the well being of her whānau.

Why Te Arawa Whānau Ora Works

Te Arawa Whānau Ora has been successful because it ensures whānau are able to determine their own goals and are given positive support to achieve them. Te Arawa Whānau Ora will work with groups, whānau and individuals to support them to become successful.

Te Arawa Whānau Ora works because it puts whānau in the driver’s seat, they define their own goals and make their own decisions. Te Arawa Whānau Ora has helped over 1500 individual whānau members over the last year. If you would like to know more please contact us.

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