Rainbow Kiwi’s At Level 4: Rāwā Mahu Karetai Wood-Bodley

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    Express talks to members of our LGBTQ+ community to find out how they are doing in Level 4 Lockdown and hear their tips for maintaining mental health. Today we speak to COVID-19 Disability Response Lead at the Ministry of Health Rāwā Mahu Karetai Wood-Bodley.

    Tell us about your Level 4 Lockdown and what are you doing to keep your mental health in check?

    Kia ora koutou katoa, Hello everyone. I hope you’re all safe and well. We’re in Whanganui at my husband’s family home. I’m staying with Frankie’s parents and of course Frankie.

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    To keep me mentally healthy, I:
    Keep informed about the advice and recommendations around COVID-19. 
    -Have a daily routine as much as possible.
    -Get up and go to bed at similar times every day.
    -Keep up with my hygiene.
    -Eat meals at regular times.
    -Exercise at least once a day with my mask on.

    -Allocate time for working and time for resting, including a mandatory 24 hours of rest and Frankie time all day Saturday.
    -Make time to play some games.
    -Host virtual dinners, parties or gaming nights.

    There are more ideas here: Looking after your mental wellbeing | Unite against COVID-19

    What are your top tips for express readers who are struggling with self-isolation?

    Reach out and get support – there is a lot of information here for you to see: Free tools, resources and apps | Unite against COVID-19 and here: Where to go for help | Unite against COVID-19

    Alternatively, contact your friends, love ones, and be honest – it’s ok to feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, worried or scared. Others will feel the same way.

    What is the most positive aspect of self-isolation you’ve experienced so far?

    The first time the country went into Alert Level 4 lockdown, I was in Christchurch with one of my best friends, Andrew. I remember heading towards Christchurch in March 2020 as the country was preparing for lockdown, and I remember the fear and anxiety that I think is safe to say that everyone had. It felt like we didn’t know how long it would last or if the end of the world was coming, like the movie I am Legend with Will Smith in it.

    However, this time there is a sense of preparedness. We have all been here before, it’s not the end of the earth as we know it, and we all know what to do. This time around, I am also fortunate to spend the time with my husband and my in-laws.

    What plans do you have between now and the end of Lockdown?

    I am working on making sure disabled people in New Zealand are safe, that they continue to have access to support, food, and good information relating to COVID-19 and keeping themselves safe. I will continue to raise awareness of our equity obligations and helping lead the All of Government and Health Response to COVID-19.

    Frankie and I will be filming our documentary at home for Mōhia Whakawhānau (Innovation in Birth). The film currently has the working draft title of Te Manaia Kahukura: The Rainbow Seahorse, which is about the journey of Frankie becoming pregnant as a trans man, navigating society and raising awareness about the challenges, barriers and possibilities of an inclusive and safe society for other trans folk.

    Besides that, I will still be engaging remotely in my regular board meetings, my business as usual work and enjoying some downtime. 

    What are you missing most about ‘normal life’?

    Not a lot at this stage; I’m enjoying the time to be at home, working on the COVID-19 Response and doing my part. We’ve been kept so busy that I haven’t had the chance to miss most things yet. However, friendship is vital to me, so I can say I miss my closest and dearests, and we’ve been connecting online, which helps. I know that I will want to get out and travel the country as soon as I can do so. We have a holiday booked in Rarotonga after getting our second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. We have also booked flights for Christchurch, Auckland, Tauranga, and our honeymoon trip around the south island. So fingers crossed, everyone does their part, stay at home, physically distances themselves, and we’ll be out of this rahui (lockdown) as soon as possible.  

    What will be the first thing that you can’t wait to do when regular life resumes?

    Reschedule any flights so that we can get on with filming our documentary and catch up with friends. 

    Moving forward, is there anything you think you will change about your life following self-isolation?

    I work long hours for the passions that I have. However, I have to be mindful of maintaining my friendships, my family relationships and be available for Frankie. I know that it isn’t sustainable. I genuinely want to put a lot of effort into our work and help achieve the dreams and aspirations to help improve the spaces I work in, and I need to learn how to work more sustainably. 

    Is there a closing message you would like to share with our gorgeous LGBTI+ community?

    Thank you all for doing what we’ve asked of you. It’s still vital that we all stick to the COVID-19 basics.  

    If you’re unwell, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 about getting tested.  

    If you’re out:  

    • Wear a mask and keep a 2m distance from others  
    • Keep scanning QR codes to keep track of where you’ve been  
    • Wash and sanitise hands often  
    • Stay local and be kind.  

    Remember that there are essential workers that need to travel.

    Be mindful that some people, like disabled people, might not wear a mask; this is a genuine concern, and disabled people still have the right to food, pharmacies, and other essential services but are currently being jeered at, harassed, and scared to go shopping. 

    Look after yourselves and your whānau – we will get through this together.  

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