Ring the bell. This is a glimpse into the dedicated contribution being made by a small team at the heart of Aotearoa’s testing response.

Every week thousands of tubes have to be meticulously sorted into zip-locked specimen packs so they can be sent out for saliva testing. Border workers and businesses in Wellington depend on the kits.

It’s at the Manaaki Ability Trust, tucked behind St Mark’s Church in Lower Hutt, that the Tube Crew gather most weekdays to solve this logistical puzzle. The Trust prepares clients for vocational work and voluntary service in the community.

The week starts with those at the Trust who want to take part putting their names down on the sign up sheet. Spots fill up fast.

With dedicated desk stations and slick systems in place, the crew are well prepped for the twice-weekly delivery from Wellington SCL.

Once the tubes and bags arrive they’re piled into steel trays and the team get to work. Every 10 kits completed the bell is rung. They’re then quality checked and packaged into a bigger bag, ready to be picked up again. It’s a lively, well-oiled operation.

The work means a lot to the team at Manaaki. A hand crafted chart of weekly stats hangs proudly on the wall. It shows five consecutive weeks of more than 4,000 packs prepared for collection. Tube Crew member Tristan says that they’re always trying to set a new record.

“Every time we try and do more. We’ve done 500 this morning. What’s your record [at the laboratory]?”

The Tube Crew are well aware that COVID-19 testing will continue through the holiday period, so are busy stockpiling extra bags for Wellington SCL.

After this is all sorted, the team will turn their minds to taking a well deserved three week break. Programme Team Leader Louisa Kelly says that her favourite part has been seeing the team’s enthusiasm to be a part of our National Covid-19 response.

“The sense of pride at being part of the Nation’s response to Covid-19 was evident very early on and we’ve seen some amazing outcomes. One team member with Dyslexia has increased confidence in her numeracy skills, while others have mastered some Time Management skills to turn up for our morning shifts. The crew are also really proud of the fact they have some extra spending for the holidays.”

The Manaaki Ability Trust prepares clients for vocational work and voluntary service in the community. This is underpinned by a respect for the dignity and rights of people with disabilities to be contributing members of society. As a community and whānau, they encourage each other to do the best they can and to overcome each challenge as they reach thei goals.

“Manaaki” means to support and care for each other through kindness, generosity and hospitality.

The word Manaaki derives from two root words in Te Reo Māori – “mana” and “āki.” Mana means the inherent dignity and life-force of each individual, āki means to encourage and challenge.

Wellington SCL has made regular donations to Manaaki Ability Trust so it can help fund amazing mahi like that of the Tube Crew.