|Church helps Tongan women become nurse's aides|
Tiala Toetuu is a certified nurse’s aide in Honolulu and one of the first graduates of the Kilohana United Methodist Church’s home care project.
UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Dec. 17, 2008 | HONOLULU (UMNS)
When the Rev. Frank Butterworth’s wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he needed help keeping his promise to his beloved Irene so that she could die at home.
He needed more than medical assistance. He needed someone who would treat his wife of 66 years with love and respect.
As a retired United Methodist pastor, Butterworth, 97, turned to his denomination and found the answer to his prayers in Tiala Toetuu.
"Tiala is the best," he said. "She was with my wife right up to the moment she passed away."
The Rev. Frank Butterworth, 97,
appreciates the care Toetuu
gave his dying wife.
Toetuu is one of the first graduates of Kilohana United Methodist Church’s home care project. The ministry has been helping Pacific Islander women become certified nurse aides since 1999.
"It is a blessing to walk with a person in their final days," Toetuu said. "It has taught me to be strong in my faith and to be aware of what is happening every day."
The affection and respect between Toetuu and Butterworth are evident as the two sit in Butterworth’s small apartment at the Hawaii Kai Retirement Center.
"She took care of Irene like a friend," Butterworth said. "We knew her reputation; she is good at taking care of all patients. She takes loving care. It’s not just professional; it is personal."
Toetuu is a United Methodist and a Tongan. She said Tongans have to overcome two big hurdles—language and education—before they can do her type of work.
"The program started with my concern for our Tongan family in our congregation to provide adequate employment to care for their families," said the Rev. Alan Mark, pastor of Kilohana United Methodist Church. "Our Tongans come from an agrarian society and are basically skilled in farming. They find themselves doing blue-collar work and just getting by financially."
The kingdom of Tonga comprises 176 South Pacific islands and is the only nation in the Pacific never to be colonized. It is the country nearest the international dateline, where each new day begins. Tonga also is the most Methodist country on earth, with more than half of the population belonging to the Free Wesleyan Methodist Church of Tonga.
The church’s certified nurse aide program gives women the skill, training and certification for entry into the labor market.
A member of Kilohana who is a professor of nursing volunteered to waive her payment and teach a two-week, eight-hour-a-day intensive certification class. She also secured a nursing home for the students to do their training.
"The church underwrote the program (books and fee for testing) and provided the facility for the classes," Mark said. "Since our Tongan woman needed help with their reading and medical terms, our United Methodist Women volunteered to tutor and work with each student to help them with the assignments and later the test."
"Church members tutored us one on one," Toetuu said. "Those medical terms, we couldn’t say them or understand them!"
After a month of studying with their tutors, the women started classes. "It was very hard, but we managed," she said.
'We are somebody'
Nineteen women enrolled in the first course, and 14 passed and received diplomas from the state of Hawaii. The church also held classes on work ethics and business savvy. More than 30 women are certified and working.
"We are certified!" Toetuu declared. "It is a wonderful feeling to be on your own two feet. We are somebody!"
Mark could not estimate how many clients the program has helped. Many graduates, he said, have joined companies or moved to the mainland and found work. "I think we have cast a wide net," he said.
"This continues to let our community and church know of our involvement not only on justice issues, but the concern for family and our elderly. Subsequently, we have funded and built an adult day care center that would provide not only programs for the elderly, but advocacy and service to and for our community."
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Buses House Homeless
Retired tour buses shelter Hawaii's homeless
Ex-gang member helping ex-cons get on track
Kilohana United Methodist Church