Auckland based innovative health organisation, The Fono patient Bermuda Pongi, of Tongan descent, started smoking when she was 17 years old.
Smoking was a part of her life, habits, and social interaction with her friends.
But thanks to The Fono’s involvement in the Wero Challenge, the 32-year-old has been smoke-free since March.
“When I joined the Wero Challenge it really helped a lot,” says Bermuda, who admits she didn’t realise the bad consequences smoking had on her health, as well as her relationships with friends and family.
“I understand now more about the health consequences and how it affects my lungs and other organs of my body."
“I know my personal choice to smoke affected other people as well. I learned that second-hand smoking is as bad as smoking itself."
“They both kill.”
With the help of The Fono, especially her Community Support Worker (CSW) Ma’ata Hala’apiapi and the advice from Wero Challenge support groups, Bermuda was able to stick to her cessation plan.
She eventually became completely smokefree, recording no carbon monoxide in her system in the last four weeks of the challenge.
Her achievement was acknowledged when she and three other joint winners from different organisations were awarded the Challenge’s prize money for their selected charities.
Olive Stanley, Senior Practitioner in The Fono’s Mental Health Team says The Fono’s team was the only community-based and Pacific team that won, with the rest being residential-based and mainstream.
Both Olive and Ma’ata are very proud of Bermuda and know that becoming completely smokefree is difficult.
“Ultimately, we would like for everyone to be smokefree, but that’s a journey that we can only support them with, and provide services for,” says Olive.
“At the end of the day it’s their choice.”
Wero is a stop smoking competition, where waka teams can compete against each other and win prize money for a designated charity, marae projects or community groups.
Any 10 people who smoke can form a waka and this year five mental health consumers took part as part of a wider team entered by The Fono.
Competitions ran over a three-month period and the waka with the most verified smokefree kaihoe (paddlers) at the end of the ‘race’ were the winners.
The Fono provides affordable services including medical, dental, pharmacy, health promotion, social services, education and Whanau Ora. They deliver a combination of these services across five locations. With combined experience of five separate clinics stretching over 80 years, The Fono aims to be a leader in health for the people who need it the most, fostering well, safe, vibrant and informed communities.
Click here to view The Fono’s website