Advocating for the vulnerable with mana and kindness
Mike Katipa provides vital mental health support to Aucklanders in his role as an Emerge Aotearoa non-governmental organisation partner at Manaaki House. Manaaki House is a community mental health centre based in Panmure, where people aged 18+ years can receive a range of mental health assessment, treatment and support services. Mike’s job is a demanding one, largely involving making house calls across the south east area of central Auckland to provide support to people in the community.
Mike goes above and beyond in his role, often working overtime. Mike received a number of Awesome Aucklander nominations, one of which came from his colleague, registered mental health nurse Hannah, who said: “Throughout COVID-19, Mike has been encouraging our clients to get vaccinated and then providing them transport to and from the vaccination centres. He stays past his work hours by choice so he can deliver food parcels to all clients in need. He’s full of knowledge and will never say no if someone needs support.”
Hannah says it’s not unusual for Mike to go the extra mile. He recently helped a client into emergency accommodation, which was quite far away due to limited availability.
"Mike drove back and forth from our centre to make sure the client had enough food and managed to get her phone in working order. He’s been to visit this client multiple times to check she is well supported and comfortable in her new environment. This is just one example of many!”
Lockdown didn’t dramatically alter Mike’s work – he still had to go into the community to visit clients who needed support, but it was a very tough time. “Many of the usual support services weren’t able to operate. If I couldn’t visit them, a lot of the things they needed wouldn’t have happened,” Mike says.
“I had a client with a broken nose that we needed to get to the GP… I had quite a few clients that didn’t have any food and no one was visiting them, clients that needed to talk to WINZ...
“I had a few clients who were really distressed, especially some of our young males, because they’re not used to that sort of thing, they’re used to getting out and about, going to work or doing something. It was really difficult for them.”
Mike rolled up his sleeves and did what he needed to do to help.
“So, I got myself vaccinated, and then I got out visiting everybody. It just felt normal – that’s just my job."
In addition to supporting the community in his busy full-time job, Mike is also heavily engaged in volunteer work.
“I volunteer in both housing and food parcel services for our local community. Over Level 4 lockdown I delivered 1,800 food parcels to people, many of whom would’ve been in a really bad state if they didn’t get that food,” Mike says.
“I think there were about 20 families with about seven children – one family had 19 grandchildren. We went around and gave out Christmas presents – they were second-hand but all the kids loved it. They’re really good kids, these kids. Some of them are top of their class and everything, but because they’re such a huge family, their budget is a bit tight with only Mum and Dad working. So I was delivering three food parcels a week to those families.”
Delivering food parcels meant a lot of driving for Mike - more than eight hours a day. “My lowest distance was 130 kilometres, my highest was over 300 kilometres.”
Mike is still working hard in his role at Manaaki House, and in his volunteer work, to make sure people are getting the support they need, no matter the traffic light level.
Hannah is full of praise for his “beaming smile, mana, kindness and passion.”
Mike’s motivation is simple: “I’ve done it for a long time. It’s a habit now. I care about people. I love people. Even when they annoy me, I still love them!”
Tāmaki Pūkenga Rau