Songs for the return home

Thursday April 09, 2020 Written by Published in Weekend
The Numanga girls at the playground close to their house in Laie, Hawaii. From left:  Tehani, with Moana, Malia on the roller blades with baby Mele (Numanga granddaughter) and Olivia 20040332. The Numanga girls at the playground close to their house in Laie, Hawaii. From left: Tehani, with Moana, Malia on the roller blades with baby Mele (Numanga granddaughter) and Olivia 20040332.

These are wistful times for Cook Islands families who are dispersed around the world. 

Papa Jake Numanga cannot sing at the Rarotonga Airport any more. There are no travellers, since the Covid-19 border lockdown.

But his son William encourages him to sing over the phone and at home to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

William Numanga and his family live in Hawai’i; at these difficult times, they are making sure their home is a place where they can enjoy learning and teaching and family.

He worries about his dad, Papa Jake, the golden ukulele musician, and his mum Kate. They are in their 80s, a vulnerable age, living back here in Rarotonga.

“I just want to encourage my Dad to sing to his children and grandchildren especially because there’s hardly any flights arriving and he's not required to be at the airport.”

Papa Jake has 60 grand and great-grandchildren. Some live here in Rarotonga, where there are no confirmed Covid-19 cases. Of 313 swabs sent to New Zealand last Friday, 300 came back negative yesterday; the other tests are still pending.

Papa Jake Numanga during his performance at the Rarotonga Airport.

But in Hawai’i, the state government reported a sixth coronavirus death yesterday – one of 435 confirmed cases.

William Numanga said he and his wife Moana, their four girls and grand-daughter, were doing well. They were trying to stay safe by staying home, working and entertaining the children.

The Covid-19 precautionary measures had allowed them to get some home projects and renovations done, and they were including their children in the work. Residents have been ordered to “shelter in” and do everything they can from home.

“We are fortunate to still be employed and work from home so we divide our time during the day to make sure our work tasks are completed and that we also make time for family activities,” he said.

He said the schools had also posted their curriculum online, so the kids could do schoolwork at home. And they have also stocked up on food and essentials to minimise the need to go to the store. “So, we are coping.”

“We live close to the beach and a playground so we make time and take them outdoors while practicing social distancing so they can run around and burn some of that energy.”

So far, based on statistics and reports, Numanga said the smaller isolated Pacific nations had managed to avoid infection – a huge blessing.

“But we still have to be careful and restrict travel into the countries. Because we rely heavily on tourism, the travel restrictions will impact us economically and that may create a lot of challenges for our Pacific people.”

He said the virus has also reminded people about some basic priorities in life; such as taking care of families especially children and elderly, looking after one’s health and strengthening the immune system by eating healthy and exercising, focusing on creating a safe and positive environment in the home, and where possible, connecting back to the land, growing our own food and looking after our environment.

He encouraged Cook Islanders to take extra precaution at this time and follow the instructions given by Health and other Government authorities.

“I want to encourage both our Government and the private sector to continue to strengthen their partnership and efforts to protect the livelihood our people. We are all in this together.”

Little Olivia

Williams Numanga’s daughter Olivia was six years old when she was admitted to intensive care in Hawai’i after a car ran her off her bike last year. She suffered a broken femur.

 Olivia Numanga. 19101408

A 64-year-old woman turned herself in, to police.

Olivia was now doing well and had fully recovered from his injuries, Numanga said.

The driver of the vehicle has apologised and they had forgiven her.

“We are grateful and appreciate all the prayers and words of encouragement and comfort received.”

And because they didn't lodge a complaint or file any charges, the case had effectively been closed

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