In a heartwarming and inspiring journey through Southland, Tory from Arthritis NZ embarked on a week-long engagement trip in September that left a profound impact on both the community and herself. Tory visited Dunedin, Gore, and Invercargill to engage with health professionals and community support groups to promote the Arthritis Assist services.

The feedback received from health professionals was fantastic. They welcomed Arthritis NZ’s support services with open arms, commending our resources for people with arthritis. In a time when healthcare providers are struggling with overwhelming demand and limited time, Arthritis NZ has become a beacon of hope for holistic care. Health professionals now feel confident referring their patients to Arthritis Assist, knowing that they will receive the support they need.

Beyond her meetings with healthcare providers, Tory had the privilege of meeting two of the southern community support groups. Among them was the remarkable Karen Browne from Dunedin. Tory was struck by the positivity and camaraderie of the group, which meets monthly to discuss various topics and provide mutual support despite their shared struggles with arthritis.

Tory’s journey continued to Gore, where she presented to a kaumātua group consisting of approximately 50 to 60 individuals. The presentation was an engaging discussion on how these resilient individuals manage their arthritis. For them, the movement proved to be their medicine, but the social connection formed by gathering weekly for kai and a catch-up was just as vital. The Gore arthritis support group mirrored the Dunedin group’s positivity and support, reinforcing the importance of community, especially in rural locations like Gore.

Invercargill marked the final destination of Tory’s Southland adventure, where she had the pleasure of meeting one of her favourite volunteers, Linda Te au. Linda’s inspiring story of overcoming multiple health challenges, including Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Sjögren’s Syndrome, and Osteoarthritis, inspired Tory. Linda encouraged her to embrace a healthy lifestyle by participating in her first park run.

Tory and Linda doing Parkrun

Tory and Linda during Parkrun

The Parkrun in Invercargill turned out to be a delightful experience. With 150 participants of various abilities, it was an inclusive event that celebrated movement and community. Participants included people in wheelchairs, mums with prams, dog walkers, and runners of all levels. The scenic 5 km route around Queens Park in the heart of Invercargill was well-organized and uplifting. Afterwards, participants gathered at the Garden’s Cafe for coffee and conversation.

“Parkrun can be found in many regions of New Zealand. It’s a 5 km walk, run or jog for all fitness levels and can lead to an enriching experience that combines fitness, fun, and community engagement,” said Tory.

Tory’s Southland engagement trip was not only a testament to the importance of Arthritis NZ’s services but also a heartwarming adventure of resilience, community support, and the power of positivity. Her encounters with health professionals and community groups reaffirmed the critical role of organisations like ours in providing support for those living with arthritis.

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