The former police officer says there is nothing about the job that she doesn’t like. “For me it’s another way of giving back to the community.”
She says you need a level of strength and fitness, and the paddler and junior paddling coach has plenty of that. With a few accolades to her name, including silver medal at the 2007 South Pacific games in Samoa and a world sprint title in Tahiti, she has been paddling since the late 90s.
She says with one emergency service or another flowing through her blood, her kids think what she does is cool. In fact, one of her four children has been in the Air Force for nearly four years. Matapo’s sister Dina is also in the fire service and it is something the sisters can share.
Having done her basic training, Matapo is ready to go to Rotorua to become certified, but is hoping that the New Zealand trainer will come to Rarotonga instead.
Also waiting to become certified is her comrade Natalia Short. For Short, joining the fire service was a way to extend her skill set and learn something completely new. Having represented the country in soccer and netball, she is enjoying the physical and the mental challenge being a member of the fire service brings.
“We learn so much, and there is a lot to learn. First aid response, equipment, procedures. That kind of challenge I enjoy.”
Short says weekly training on Monday evenings, where volunteers support each other and build on their skills, is preparing her for the job ahead although she has not attended a fire yet.
“I didn’t imagine I would ever be doing something like this, but when I came across other women firefighters I became interested, I realised this is something I could do.
“For me it’s about saving houses, saving lives and helping the community,” says Short.
The firewomen encourage other women to take up the challenge and join the service. “Our colleagues are an awesome bunch of guys to work with and we’re a great team,” says Matapo.
- Shar van Leeuwen