AS a part of national volunteer week, reporter Hazel Osborne sat down for a chat with St John volunteer and local legend Spady Te Pou.
For 18 years, Spady Te Pou has given back to the tight knight community of Waihau Bay, and at 75, he’s not stopping anytime soon.
Beginning his volunteer journey at age 57, Mr Te Pou said it was his way of giving back to a community that had supported him for years.
He had just shut up shop and there had been a call-out for emergency service volunteers, so he put his hand up.
Back then it was a dual service role with volunteer firefighters and medical first responders.
Filling both roles and being interchangeable was the norm, he said.
Nearly two decades on, Mr Te Pou leads a team of six under the St John umbrella.
Before St John officially came on board in 2002, a large part of the cost of providing a medical first response on the Coast was covered by raffles and fundraisers run by the Waihau Bay Community Trust. When St John took over, he said a financial weight was lifted from their shoulders.
Over time, he has seen colleagues and friends stand down from volunteering, or die, and has attended much tragedy, being there for people in their time of need.
He remembers all those he has lost. “We still talk about them; they were the same kinds of people … they cared about the community.”
Mr Te Pou has yarns for every occasion with one such story arising from when a time when he was a one-man band and the only port of call for a medical emergency in the area.
A man had fallen from a tree in Potaka on a stormy night. With the conditions rife, only a road ambulance could attend.
Mr Te Pou remembers standing at the bottom of the hill, below where the man had fallen, contemplating how he was going to tackle the job by himself, when a car of patched Mongrel Mob members pulled up beside him.
“They rolled the window down and asked me ‘what’s going on?’.
“I said ‘I’m not going up there’, then they said, ‘if you give us a stretcher, we can go up there and get him’. So, they did.
“They brought him back down for me, we put him in the back of the ambo and off we went to hospital.”
The driver of the car was the chapter president, who Mr Te Pou said he had helped him with a dislocated shoulder just weeks before.
Through armed offender call-outs, suicide, fatal car accidents and being threatened by an armed man with a knife – who he told to “put it down” and that he was “being silly” – Mr Te Pou is adamant he wouldn’t change his work for the world.
With stories like these filling his memory, he feels grateful for his community and the part he plays in it.
“We need to stay here to look out for our community,” he said.
“You have to be community spirited down here, it’s just one big whanau.”
Covid-19 has been a strange time, and has made Mr Te Pou appreciate the support, expertise and commitment of his team even more, acknowledging Deb Gromwich, Veronica Temoana, Bill Beckett, Aniwa Rameka. Brenda Coutts and Dorothy Waititi and all the work they do.
“Being on my own for a while, they’re completely a breath of fresh air. It’s such a relief for me,” he said.