THE Pikias have rediscovered the true power that comes from family.
The Southland family had been separated by distance for decades, but following a family tragedy they have returned home to Southland, and their lives have become richer for it.
Teri Pikia and her six siblings were born and bred in Southland. But, as they grew up they had gradually moved away from the province, largely in search of improved job prospects.
“[They left for more money] not to have a better life, as they had a better life here,” Teri said.
Before returning home in 2016, four of the siblings had been living away from Southland since the late 1990s.
It was the unexpected and tragic loss of a close family member in 2012 which drew the family home for a tangi (ceremonial Maori funeral or wake), and again a year later for a family reunion.
On reconnecting, they realised how many significant family events they had missed out on while being away, she said.
“The tragedy reminded them how important family is.”
Within a 12-month period, all but one of the siblings and their families had returned home to live.
About the same time, their uncle and aunt also returned home from Wellington after being away for about 40 years.
The seven siblings have 32 children and 40 grandchildren between them.
And they wasted no time in making the most of being together again, essentially creating their own community within the community.
They ran a weight-loss challenge to address some of the family’s health issues. Twenty-eight members signed up for the challenge, and within 12 weeks the group lost a combined 220kg.
Teri said the goal of the weight-loss challenge was to get their members back on the softball pitch, many of whom had not played the sport for about 20 years.
“The weight loss goal was to get back on the diamond of play. The year after the weight-loss challenge, they were back on the pitch.”
This success spurred the family to develop an initiative they have called Wero Warrior, with their whanau the target group.
Through Wero Warrior, the Pikias created a series of programmes to support each other.
“It’s about getting people active and doing things together.”
They still run weight loss classes, but have also introduced a school holiday programme to care for the family’s children while their parents were at work and set up their own softball and darts teams and informal Te Reo Maori classes. They even holiday en masse.
“There are not many days we don’t go without seeing each other.”
For some families, this situation would be a breeding ground for conflict, stress and potential estrangement, but not so for the Pikia family.
Despite the close, regular contact, the family rarely quarrelled, she said.
“We voice any concerns straight away and don’t hold grudges.”
The proof of this is never more evident than the Pikia’s current project to renovate the family crib in Colac Bay.
The siblings’ parents had left the crib to them in a trust.
With each member contributing however they could, such as helping on the building site or doing catering jobs to raise funds for the build, they were expanding and developing the crib to accommodate the large extended family.
Teri said returning home and reconnecting had enriched their lives and the lives of their children.
The children had formed close healthy relationships with each other and their extended family, people who understood and supported them and had become their friends as well as family, she said.
None of their family had committed suicide or become involved in gangs, something Teri attributed to their close bond.
“This is something we are very proud of and talk about often. I think that comes from them having healthy relationships with so many people in their own generation and other generations. It has given them that all-round well-being.”