A Different Light - Jonny's latest column from the Northern Advocate, 48 Hours, Saturday 27th May.

It was 4am.  I woke up like a spike of electricity.  Sally was screaming in a very high pitched tone. 

Nightmare?  She wouldn’t wake up.  I turned on the lights and she was convulsing violently.  I was totally freaked out.  I didn’t know what was happening.  I dialled 111. 

My mind was racing.  We were at idyllic Omapere.  ‘In the sticks’, I thought an ambulance was going to be going to be hours away. 

Foreboding started to set in.  I was, however, thankfully, so wrong about the ambulance.  They were there in less than 20 minutes.  Calm, professional, reassuring, efficient - everything you would expect an emergency service in a first world country to be. 

Sally had an adult epileptic onset seizure, a big one.  It happened out of the blue with no warning which is why it was so frightening.  She was fine and has had no others since. 

Wind the clock forward 10 years and walking back into the Tiaho offices this week, a colleague was being examined by a St John’s ambulance officer.  She had had an unexpected “turn”.  Again the ambulance officer was calm, professional, reassuring and efficient. 

So why is this crucial service only partially funded by the Government?  Why do they perpetually have to publically fundraise? 

The trouble with relying on philanthropic funding from a business point of view is that you can’t guarantee it.  It beggars belief that this emergency service doesn’t have full government backing. 

So what other vital services aren’t fully funded by the government?  Well, let’s see…  The Northland’s rescue helicopter, surf lifesaving, and hospice services are a few that come to mind. 

[Image result for northland rescue helicopter]  So what’s the commonality between these services apart from having to run perpetual cake stalls and stand on street corners with a bucket?  It seems to me the common denominator is they are servicing people who are down on their luck.  (You can certainly say that your circumstances are unfortunate when you’re in dire need of an ambulance, a rescue chopper, a surf lifesaver or indeed, the support of a hospice centre.) 

The lack of such funding for these organisations cuts across the political spectrum from left to right and is historical.  Do we as a society collectively and sub consciously not want to invest in bad luck?  Or is it hard wiring dating back to the Cro-Magnon man where the law of the jungle rules, might is right and I’m alright Jack. 

I’ve always disliked the idea of fundraising in the disability sector because I don’t want to perpetuate the notion the role of the disabled person in our society is to be constantly begging. 

Stigma is sustained from perceptions, attitudes and values.  These are articulated sometimes in the language we use.  Now, here’s a wee history lesson in linguistics.  The word handicap came from the term cap-in-hand, as in holding out your hat to beg for money. 

I look forward to the day when these services – the ambulance, the chopper, the hospice – are fully appreciated and the buckets, raffle tickets, sausage sizzles and caps are retired from service.  Then the personnel and volunteers of these wonderful organisations can focus on what they do best, helping us all when we’re sown on our luck with the expertise, professionalism and care that saved our butts in Omapere.

Downloadable pdf below:

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Vital service forced to beg. pdf 219 KB

Published 06/06/2017

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