PIANO Lessons – First meeting

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

Years ago I received a cold-call email from a teacher at one of the local primary schools. Naomi Lees had read my bio on the Hospice New Zealand Conference website. This was a conference at which I was a keynote speaker. Naomi said that from my bio it sounded like we had common interests and she invited me along to her primary school’s networking meeting.

I had always loved the idea of compassionate communities and thought it would be a good opportunity to connect with one of the local communities we serve. I was keen to meet Naomi, her school principal and other community members, at the PIANO (Papakura Information and Networking Opportunity) meeting. A cool name and I wondered what kind of music we would produce together.

It didn’t take me long to realise that things were different on this side of town. I was still unsure of what a Hospice Palliative Care doctor was doing at a primary school networking meeting. Naomi the experienced teacher, soon brought me up to speed with a quick lesson.

Our school roll is over 95% Maori/Pasifika kids. You’ve heard about the major health disparities right.

[Nod] NZ Maori folks die seven years earlier than Non-Maori do of long-term health conditions such as heart disease, renal failure, cancers, and the list goes on and on.

You’ve visited some of the locals at home, and seen the living conditions.

[Nod] Memories of visiting people at home, 15 to 18 people living in a three bedroom house, and family members sleeping in the garage. Icy cold in winter, hot as heck in summer.

Well, when it comes to death and dying, a lot of these kids have direct lived experience of their relatives dying. In some cases their Uncles, Aunties, sometimes even their parents.


That’s why it’s important that you are here, because interfacing with your service is something that could actually happen during their primary school times.

Naomi had taught me the first of many lessons I would learn at the PIANO meeting.

The other attendees would teach me more, and I will share them in future PIANO lessons posts.

It was with great pleasure that I received the first of Naomi’s Notes yesterday, and I felt privileged to be able to share the writings of one of my favourite teachers with the rest of the Palliverse.

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