This month we farewell Hiki Pihema as she moves in to retirement after 35 years at Hauora Tairāwhiti.
Hiki began her journey here at Gisborne Hospital as a Dietitian in 1986. She completed her training at The University of Otago and Wellington Hospital. Raised in Tokomaru Bay, Hiki moved to Auckland to attend Queen Victoria School for Māori Girls after being awarded a scholarship.
In her final year of school, she attended a careers day. Unsure what she wanted to do for work, Hiki was drawn to the kitchen, as kai (food) has always been a big part of her whānau life. Upon watching the dietitians at work in their head-to-toe all white uniforms, she returned to school to complete Science Chemistry, something that was completely new to her, in order to study at university to become a Dietitian.
A few memorable moments from Hiki’s time here at Gisborne Hospital include "seeing Nona Gaskin dressed as a big yellow daffodil at a hospital Gala" and having her official job interview 3 weeks after she had already been in the role.
She also recalls when many people were taking time off for being “sick”, which lead to an inventive hospital policy to manage absences; if you do not take time off for three months, your name would go in to the hat to win an all-expense paid trip to Fiji. However unsurprisingly, "this didn't last long, as people who were actually sick were coming to work to ensure they would get in the draw", says Hiki.
Hiki has seen numerous changes during her time at the hospital, from when there used to be one person employed full-time just to cut vegetables in the kitchen, to the 1990’s where private contractors were hired to supply the food.
Hiki’s role then progressed from preparing the hospital menu, to more specialised work which she has continued to this day.
“The biggest reward is always the people ... working with the people we care for, and staff alike, and making connections to them, their whānau and whakapapa is special", says Hiki.
“Tairāwhiti is a small place, everyone knows everyone, so being able to truly make a difference to their lives and their whakapapa is one of the best parts of what I do” says Hiki.
In retirement Hiki is looking forward to no longer making the drive from Tokomaru Bay to Gisborne for work every day, spending more time in her two vege gardens, and walking and running.
Her parting words to fellow colleagues at Hauora Tairāwhiti are that “there are lots of opportunities for learning, take them, because you never know where it may lead you”.