Alexia Santamaria meets a local hero who lives and breathes for her mahi in the greater Kaipātiki area.
Miriama Rapana’s email address at Kaipātiki Community Facilities Trust (KCFT) begins with the word connector, and there’s no better way to describe what she does – from the moment she wakes up, almost to the time she closes her eyes. Connecting people with other people, connecting people to places, connecting individuals to the wider community and connecting anyone to help if they need it.
She’s been in community work most of her life, apart from a brief foray into hospitality. She’s worked with youth in the South Island for many years and is now based in the Northcote area where she was born and raised. “It’s a lot of fun, I’m now working with some of the families of people I went to school with!”
Known as Midi, you can't miss her around the greater Kaipātiki area (Northcote, Birkdale, Glenfield and Beach Haven). Three or four times a week you’ll see her in her bright pink KCFT shirt with her tongs and hot plate, setting up in a different residential street for a neighbourhood barbecue. “I have to admit I’m a bit sick of sausages,” she laughs, but it’s clear she never gets sick of the magic that happens when people get to know those who live around them. “Things are so different now. When I was young, everyone knew their neighbours, but that’s not the case these days, so sometimes people need a little help. Food is the best way to connect people – and I love helping make that happen.”
Midi has seen people who’ve lived in a street for 20 years suddenly realise they have so much in common with someone up the road who they'd never exchanged more than a wave with. “People need people, and I love seeing these support networks develop. I’m currently really enjoying meeting the people who have moved into Northcote Development – they are all so keen to be part of the community and meet the people who live around them.”
While she’s now a dab hand at turning the perfect sausage, that’s not all that fills her weeks. Midi can also regularly be seen with a vehicle full of fun equipment for activations or events and encouraging families to get out and actively play at the Families in Parks programmes. “I grew up with a Mum who did a lot of outdoor education, so I love anything out in the fresh air where people are getting active – and spending time together, too.” Midi knows it can be isolating, spending the whole day trying to entertain small children, so loves this ‘village’ philosophy where parents can take their kids to do something for no cost, and meet other mums and dads at the same time. No matter what she’s doing, Midi is always connecting.
“We need to create local support networks now, more than ever. With everything that COVID-19 has brought, we’ve really seen loneliness and mental health issues more at the surface. It’s important that we make sure all members of our communities are okay, and have access to whatever help they need. KCFT really believes in networking, partnership and collaboration with anyone with those same goals. We get so much better results when we all work together for people – far better than what we could do alone.”
Whether it’s help meeting neighbours, help accessing services or just a cuppa and smiling face, Midi’s door at KCFT is always open – to everyone. “I love it that people know there’s always someone to help them if they need it. I often get stopped in the street because people know I’ll know the right person to talk to, for what might actually be a really minor issue. I really love that life has come full circle and I’m back working in the community I was born in, it’s a total privilege to be part of people’s journeys in this great part of Auckland.”
You can find the KCFT space at 15 Chartwell Avenue, Glenfield or follow the organisation on Facebook: facebook.com/BNCFT/
You can read more about what is happening in Northcote in the latest issue of Everyday Northcote here.