An eloquent and powerful diabetes message    

Author Debbie McCauley reads the Zespri-gifted book with illustrators Julia Samuelu, 8, and Kayelani Edwards, 6. Photo: Jamie Troughton/ DscribeMedia Services.

Arataki School student Kayelani Edwards is amazed to find herself a published illustrator.

The six-year-old’s colourful artwork is one of 15 hand-drawn pictures featured in a bilingual book that aims to combat type 2 diabetes.

The health education book has been written by Tauranga author Debbie McCauley and funded by Zespri, with illustrations created by students from the school’s Maori language Kopukairoa unit.

This week Kayelani and 87 fellow students saw their newly-published creation for the first time. Each received a personal copy of ‘Maia the Brave – a Type 2 Diabetes Story’. Extra copies will be given to the Arataki School library, to Tauranga’s public libraries and other school libraries around Tauranga, as well as Merivale and Greerton Village Schools.

“I’m happy it was in the book, it was amazing,” Kayelani said after seeing her work in print. “I’ll show Mum and Dad. I think they might be proud of me.”

The book is part of a wider education project, instigated and funded by Zespri, to help children and their families understand how lifestyle changes can halt progression of the preventable disease.

In November last year Zespri employees teamed up with local educators and medical experts to deliver a five-day health promotion and type 2 diabetes prevention programme that included a free breakfast, games and lessons, as well as diabetes testing for parents and whanau. 

The project has drawn praise from medical professionals who deal with diabetes.

“It is a wonderful resource with wonderful artwork,” says Starship Hospital paediatric nurse specialist Rita Sigley. “The community should be proud that they were involved in sending such an eloquent but powerful message.”

Later this year Zespri nutrition scientist Juliet Ansell will help deliver the education programme to another two schools in Te Kaha.

Juliet and colleague Amy Porter initiated the project after discussing the fact that Maori are 50 per cent more likely than Europeans to develop preventable diabetes.

“Once we understood how badly this preventable disease was affecting people in our community and how few resources there were for children, we had to find a way to help,” says Juliet.

“I wish we could do more and we’d really like to see this programme grow. In the meantime, we’ve set aside a classroom set of these beautiful books to give to Te Kaha students, as a gift from the pupils at Arataki.”

Author Debbie McCauley is working on a larger, hard-cover version of the book, which tells the story of a boy who helps his favourite aunt after she is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

This week, she and a teacher from the school read part of the book aloud in English and Maori. Zespri staff then handed out copies to the children, with help from The Centre for Health clinic manager Hannah Lowe. The clinic offered advice and practical help with the school programme.

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