Turning Junior Surf Kids Into Fully-Fledged Lifeguards

15 DECEMBER 2014

Six years ago Opotiki’s Surf Lifesaving Club was in danger of running out of lifeguards.

Their small group of teenage lifeguards, including Kayla Cronin, were all about to leave town for tertiary study.

And with only seven junior surf members enrolled, there was no-one to take their place.

The club decided to create a new position of ‘Lifeguard Manager’ to help turn things around, and it was an opportunity that Kayla couldn’t resist.

She has since transformed the club’s fortunes, and this season over 70 local children aged 4 to 13 years have enrolled in Opotiki’s junior surf programme.

“If those families keep coming each year then hopefully those kids will stay and train to become lifeguards when they’re teenagers. That’s what we’re trying to encourage,” Kayla says.

Around six new lifeguards have joined the club’s ranks each year since 2011, and this season there are 14 people undergoing the intensive training to qualify.

 Opotiki Surf Lifesaving Club members on the beach

Dedicated role

Opotiki Surf Lifesaving committee member Andrew Taylor says having Kayla available for 30 hours a week to take control of the junior surf programme has made all the difference.

“We have a lot of difficulty maintaining an active adult membership so we really need to keep the young ones coming through,” he says.

“Kayla has done a wonderful job taking control of this programme and communicating with all the parents. It’s given our club a huge advantage and taken the burden off the parent volunteers.”

This year BayTrust has given $5000 towards Kayla’s wages – nearly half of what’s required to keep the position up and running.

“Having a dedicated Lifeguard Manager has certainly helped our club remain viable,” Andrew says.

“The continuity we have had with Kayla being available each year has been great too, although now she has finished her teacher training she’s looking for fulltime work. When she leaves we will begin looking to recruit another manger to take her place.”

 Kayla Cronin with junior members of the Opotiki Surf Lifesaving club

On duty

Andrew says Opotiki is a safe, family-friendly swimming beach, and in the peak of summer several hundred people can be in the water at any one time.

“It’s a relatively long, open beach. We encourage people to swim in front of the clubhouse where our patrols are set up every Sunday but there’s certainly a range of beach spots where people can swim or have a picnic at,” he says.

“Our IRBs often get called out to rescue boaties too, particularly at our harbour entrance which has a bar. That’s where most of our IRB rescues come from.”

 Junior lifeguards in training with Opotiki Surf Lifesaving Club Manager Kayla Cronin

Club growing stronger

Thanks to the work Kayla has done building up the club’s junior membership, Opotiki is now able to send nippers and younger lifeguards away to competitions where they can mix with other clubs around the country.

“For an area like ours it’s really important for them to get out and see what other clubs are doing and interact with other lifeguards,” Andrew says.

“Last year we had a team go to the national champs for the first time in some years and it really boosted their confidence. They’re already planning to compete in the next one.”


Manawahe Eco Trust: Protecting A Slice Of Paradise

24 NOVEMBER 2014

 

Standing beneath towering rimu, rata and tawa trees in the Manawahe Ecological Corridor can make you feel like you’re in the middle of a fairytale scene.

 The Manawahe Ecological Corrider in the Eastern Bay of Plenty

Nikau ferns and mossy glades surround you, while the extraordinary sounds of kokako, tui, bellbirds, grey warblers and cuckoos ring out from the sky above.

This regional ecological treasure spans 800ha between Lake Rotoma and Matata in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. It is home to some of New Zealand’s rarest birds and threatened species, and is the only forested corridor that exists between Rotorua’s lakes and the sea.

Looking after the land

One of the guardians of this beautiful bush is the Manawahe Eco Trust (MET) – a group of 40-odd volunteers and 100+ members who work to protect the environment, educate local children and other groups, and encourage recreational use of this area.

MET chairperson Fran van Alphen says the group formed seven years ago to represent the community’s interest in the corridor, and to help improve biodiversity within the native forest.

“The corridor has a lot of unique biodiversity attributes beyond just the kokako [which the area is famous for]. There are amazing, beautiful pockets of bush up to 200ha each and our vision is to one day see those pockets linked up.”

MET currently has over 100 mustelid traps in place to catch ferrets, stoats and weasels, and they also service bait stations throughout the corridor. Much of the land is privately owned and MET offers landowners pest and plant management advice.

“If we had all the resources we wanted we’d have the whole corridor protected from introduced predators,” Fran says.

 Julie Collins restocking a bait station on behalf of the Manawahe Eco Trust

 

The Manawahe Kokako Trust (MKT) have been working to improve breeding conditions for the rare birds since the mid-1990s. And the results have been impressive, with the population having grown from 14 to more than 50 kokako at present. MET works in collaboration with MKT to provide predator control for these birds and foster wider biodiversity.

Inspiring others

As well as protection, MET focusses its efforts on promoting education and recreation in the area.

“To love it you’ve got to have seen it and played in it. Just to have that experience often inspires people to come back and love it like their own backyard. We really want this area to be accessible,” Fran says.

In 2010 the local Manawahe School was controversially closed down. MET combined forces with the local community to retain and lease the school building, and now uses it as an education/ecology centre and a base for their operations.

BayTrust has granted MET $10,000 this year towards operational costs. That money has gone towards maintaining this building – something Fran and her trustees are eternally grateful for.

“It is a local hub – something which binds our community together. It’s a lovely old building and a really important asset.

“What BayTrust has allowed MET to do is to keep the building open and up-and-running. They’re allowing us the opportunity to use it as an education centre to inspire local kids. It’s taken a huge amount of stress off us by knowing the essentials like lease money are covered.”

MET employs an environmental educator who works with teachers and schools across the Bay of Plenty and further afield to provide outdoor education and environmental learning experiences that tie in with the curriculum.

“What’s important to us when the kids are up here is that they have fun and are inspired and take that enthusiasm for the environment and the area away with them.”

Other community and environmental groups are also encouraged to make regular use of the MET centre, Fran says.

“BayTrust’s support smooths out the financial challenges so we can focus on the details of what we do.”


Rotorua Horse Riders Set To Enjoy New Indoor Arena

10 NOVEMBER 2014

 

Learning how to ride Nugget the horse has given Rotorua 10 year-old Edward Haynes some of the happiest moments of his life.

 Edward Haynes practising his coordination skills at Rotorua District Riding for the Disabled Association

His weekly lessons, courtesy of the Rotorua District Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), have seen him grow in self-confidence, relax and have fun.

“He just loves it,” says his mum, Suzie. “He gets a smile on his face that’s just so shiny, so full of joy when he’s on the horse. He’s also learnt how to care for it and has formed a real attachment.”

Suzie first heard about RDA through an Autism New Zealand coffee group. Her son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2007.

“He finds it difficult to read people’s facial expressions. And kids with autism often hold onto their frustrations and find it hard to let things go.

“But the moment he gets on that horse and starts riding he forgets about those frustrations and just enjoys himself.”

Horse therapy benefits

Riding for the Disabled helps people with physical, intellectual, emotional and social challenges to develop their confidence, independence and a sense of well-being through horse riding and horse care.

The Rotorua District is one of 56 RDA member groups nationwide, and has been operating since 1978.

Riding therapy sessions cater for a wide range of people – those with autism, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, down syndrome, hearing and visual impairments, muscular dystrophy and spinal cord injuries, just to name a few.

While on the horse, riders are encouraged to practice their physical co-ordination and verbal skills. Edward often practices throwing balls through a basketball hoop or balancing other objects in one hand while he rides.

Edward is one of 85 children who currently enjoy therapeutic horse riding sessions in Rotorua. And soon those children will have a brand new riding arena to look forward to.

 Edward Haynes riding at Rotorua District RDA

All-weather facility

Rotorua RDA Trustee Jo-Anne La Grouw says work to build an Olympic-sized covered equestrian arena and administration block will begin in February 2015 after a two year fundraising effort.

BayTrust has contributed $30,000 towards the $1.1 million project which will be built on a new site in Ngongotaha.

“Our present arena is on Transit-owned land next to Rotorua Airport. Not only do Transit need that land back, but the runway at the airport has been extended so planes come down lower now which frightens both our children and the horses.”

Instead, Rotorua District RDA has signed a 20 year lease on a beautiful 17 acre block “right on the lakefront” in Ngongotaha.

“We have never had an indoor arena in Rotorua. Often during the winter months the children only get two out of their 10 rides because of bad weather,” Jo-Anne explains.

“You can see the children’s progress going backwards when they miss just one session, so this new facility will be wonderful.”

The Rotorua District RDA operates on a school term basis and plans to hire out its new covered arena to other equestrian groups when it’s not in use.

“To have that extra cash flow available from BayTrust to help with the day-to-day running of our organization will be great. We’re all really looking forward to this new facility.”

 


Astro-Turf Increases Hockey Speed and Skill In Katikati

13 OCTOBER 2014

 

Few sports are as face-paced and physically challenging as hockey – but the days of trying to play this game on grass are long gone.

Hockey has evolved into a faster, more skillful game than ever. And astro turf is now a must.

Katikati hockey players have had to drive to and from the Mount to practice and play on their astro turf for years. But thanks to a $250,000+ fundraising project, the local community now has an ideal facility right on it’s back doorstep.

 

Second-Hand Turf Still First Rate

Sandy Kindley, assistant head of PE and Health at Katikati College, is one of the driving forces behind the half-size astro turf which is now installed in the school’s grounds.

When Tauranga Hockey Association decided to replace its astro turf in early 2013, Sandy fortuitously asked if Katikati Hockey could have the old one.

“That initial generous gift is what got us started. If it wasn’t for that we would never have progressed to this stage,” Sandy explains.

Local kiwifruit trucks were sent to collect the second-hand turf which was then stored while the complex foundations were constructed.

 

Top soil had to be removed, shingle and a special underlay put down, along with a watering system to keep the ground in shape. Fencing was erected, and thanks to a $15,000 grant from BayTrust, floodlighting will be installed before the end of 2014.

 

“We want to light the facility to extend the hours of use because we’re chocka,” Sandy says. “We’re delighted to receive financial support from BayTrust. It will enable us to extend the usage of this community facility so that we can maximise it.”

Growth Sport

Hockey is unique among other popular sports in New Zealand in that both men’s and women’s teams compete at the highest level and enjoy equal recognition and profile.

Sandy agrees its popularity is growing. Katikati Hockey has eight school-age teams at present but that will increase to at least nine next year.

“The Black Sticks and success at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup have definitely lifted the profile of hockey,” she says.

While Katikati’s new astro-turf is half-size, measuring 50m by 50m, it’s ideal for practicing and holding shorter format games.

“The world under 21s have a new hockey five-a-side competition played on about a half turf. That’s where the future lies. Boards around the side of the field ensure minimum stoppages and lots of goals are scored. It’s fun and dynamic and that’s where hockey is progressing to.”

 

Goodbye Grass

Playing hockey on grass is ‘archaic’ by today’s standards, Sandy says. Astro-turf offers a number of benefits that the modern-day sport now demands.

“The ball runs to your stick smoothly on the turf, as opposed to grass which has lumps and bumps. It’s just so much faster and requires greater ball skills. Hockey’s evolved and there’s a lot more turf-based skills involved now.”

Sandy says this “huge project” is now almost complete and local schools and the wider community were making terrific use of their new facility.

“We wanted it to be multi-purpose as well. All our school PE classes are using it. It’s fantastic for football and lacrosse, as well as Maori traditional games.

“We have a summer hockey league starting here next term and it’s also available for private groups to hire.”


Aroha Mai – Helping People Cope With Cancer

14 JULY 2014

A cancer diagnosis can turn people’s lives upside down.

But luckily Rotorua and Taupo residents can turn to the Aroha Mai Cancer Support Service – a group of volunteers who are dedicated to helping cancer sufferers and their whanau/families deal with the rollercoaster ride ahead of them.

Aroha Mai began in 2002 when Bubsie Atawhai MacFarlane became worried by the lack of help available for Maori cancer patients and their families.

 Bubsie MacFarlane, and Aroha Mai Volunteers Lawna Kautai, Lorraine Smith, Makuini Pedersen and Dudu Light

“I had a mother, a brother, a niece, a sister-in-law and a father-in-law all die of cancer,” she explains.

“We classed ourselves as a well-educated family and we struggled to find out things and understand things. The doctors were talking above us not to us. We never knew what was going on.

“I thought there was a need there. If we struggled, how were other families coping who might not be as pro-active as us?”

Bubsie says Maori and Pacific Islanders tend to be more shy and private about health matters and if you mention ‘cancer’ many assume they’re going to die.

“I recognized that Maori weren’t seeking the necessary support and help. People don’t always know how to advocate for themselves so I started Aroha Mai to provide that service.”

Sharing the load

The organization has grown substantially over the past decade and now cares for around 230 cancer patients and their families from all different nationalities.

The free services include counselling; guiding people through their medical treatment; help with petrol and food vouchers; providing transport to doctor’s visits, chemotherapy or radiation treatment; dealing with WINZ or ACC claims, and holding ‘whanau huis’ to explain the situation to wider family members.

“We try to help take some of the stress away from them by dealing with these outside issues which can prohibit or prevent them from getting the treatment they need.”

Bubsie says trust is a big part of the relationship Aroha Mai develops with patients and their families. “When a person comes through that door it’s important they leave with their mana intact,” she says.

Gratifying work

Bubsie says volunteering can be emotionally draining but extremely rewarding. She recalls one instance where a Pacific Island man in his 60s was reluctant to get radiation treatment in Hamilton.

“He didn’t know what to expect – he didn’t want to stay there and he was incredibly shy so he was refusing to go. His family were beside themselves.

“I turned around and said to him ‘if I make a commitment that I will take you every day for six weeks will you go?’  He nodded yes.”

The pair left Rotorua at 7am each day and after a fortnight of saying very little, the man turned around and gave Bubsie a hug and said ‘thank you’.

“For him to do that was incredible. The feeling at that time… you couldn’t give me a million dollars to swap that feeling.”

BayTrust support

This year BayTrust has given $10,000 to the Aroha Mai Cancer Support Group Trust to help fund operational costs.

Bubsie says the money will be used to print brochures for GPs clinics and hospital wards advertising the group’s services.

It will also help cover the cost of running weekly craft classes at their office at 1238 Haupapa Street, Rotorua.

“Our craft group is a great distraction and stress relief for people,” she says. “It gives them a chance to focus on something other than their cancer treatment and something to get up for in the morning.”


Building Community Ties From The Ground Up

30 JUNE 2014

 

Bringing different sections of the community together and dispelling stereotypes is one way the Linton Park Community Trust (LPCT) is helping to improve the lives of Rotorua residents.

The trust’s community centre sits between Fordlands (one of New Zealand’s poorest suburbs), Western Heights (a working class neighbourhood) and the wealthy area of Sunnybrook.

LPCT co-ordinator Rick Mansell says the aim of running different community programmes and providing shared facilities at the centre is to encourage people from all three suburbs to mix together.

“They’ve all got stereotypes of each other and they’re all wrong. Our purpose is to bring these people together and get them talking so they realise everyone in the community has the same values and the same things they want out of life.

“It’s also about creating that understanding that everyone in the community is dependent on each other. You can’t just ignore problems when you see them. You have to do something about it. A healthy community means a lot more than just being better economically.”

Opening its doors

The LPCT was formed in 2011 and community programmes began running a year later based in the former bowling club building in Linton Park Reserve.

 The Linton Park Community Centre is helping bring locals together

Rick says up to 40 different groups use the facilities each month, and up to 700 people pass through the doors every week.

Two large meeting rooms plus several outbuildings and workshops have been converted into spaces suitable for children’s playgroups, church groups, ethnic community associations, craft and hobby workshops, parenting courses and a host of other activities.

The outdoor bowling greens have been transformed into 100 separate garden allotments where people can grow their own fruit and vegetables and make use of the LPCT’s compost and worm farm – which has now grown to an enormous 7 million worms!

 The Linton Park Community Centre has extensive food and flower gardens for residents to enjoy

“It’s a fantastic fertilizer so people come and get the liquid and take it home to dilute and use on their own garden,” Rick says.

A gardening group is now underway and volunteers hope to expand into areas such as preserving food, cooking courses and nutrition lessons in years to come.

A free ‘community kai’ evening is also held once a week where people can enjoy a three course meal if they’re struggling to feed their family or just want some company.

Sustainable enterprise

The LPCT’s ultimate goal is to ensure every aspect of the community centre is self-sufficient. That means recruiting more volunteers and looking for ways to reduce costs and recycle wherever possible.

“We have about 40 or 50 volunteers right now who keep the place running but we need around 150 volunteers to achieve our ultimate vision.”

BayTrust gave LPCT $17,000 this year to cover operational costs such as insurance premiums, rates, water and power bills.

Rick says the operational grant is the backbone of the charitable trust, and allows the centre to concentrate on meeting the needs of the community. “It’s extremely valuable to have those ongoing costs covered so we can focus on our clients.”

Drawing people in

Recent additions to the community centre’s facilities include space for parents to teach their children how to ride their bikes, and basketball, netball and soccer goals for locals to use whenever they wish.

“It gives people a reason to get off the couch, come down here and interact with one another. Often parents don’t want to teach their kids to ride on the roads, and teens can’t always afford to join their school sports team,” Rick says.

“It’s great seeing people talk to each other. Our purpose is to build the community from the ground up and bring people together from all walks of life.”

 Rotorua Home School students at the Linton Park Community Centre


Supporting People Through The Toughest Of Times

16 JUNE 2014

 

When our lives are shattered by serious crime or trauma, it’s often Victim Support volunteers who help pick up the pieces.

In the case of one woman who recently suffered a sexual assault, that support involved helping cover the cost of her stolen property, paying her mileage to attend hospital appointments, and advocating on her behalf with ACC so she could access counselling services.

The woman’s Victim Support volunteer also helped her move into her mother’s home for her and her children’s safety.

Those are just some examples of the work Victim Support does in addition to liaising with police and being a listening ear.

 Victim Support regional fundraiser Denise Graham

“The type of work our volunteers do is quite raw,” says the organisation’s regional fundraiser, Denise Graham.

“We’re often dealing with the worst time in people’s lives and we’re there to offer psychosocial and financial support and information, and to advocate for the rights and interests of victims.”

Huge demand for help

Victim Support assists over 5000 people across the Bay of Plenty every year. Seven staff members are joined by 41 volunteers, who are collectively available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We sometimes need people who can take a phone call at 4am and accompany police to a house where a tragedy, like a suicide, has occurred, or to be there when police notify family of the sudden death of their loved one,” Denise says.

Homicide, suicide, domestic violence, fatal car accidents and house fires are just some of the tragedies volunteers are asked to help people deal with.

Specialty training is given and rigorous procedures and processes are followed to ensure people get the best care and support possible.

“We help them contact other family or friends in the immediate aftermath; explain the coronial system to them; explain how the judicial system will work; support them during court hearings; and access financial assistance to help family travel to funerals and court hearings,” Denise explains.

“When people are affected by a serious crime, the emotional cost is one thing. However, the financial cost is often something you don’t consider. You can’t just go back to work on Monday if you’ve found out your child has been the victim of a homicide.

“Many people don’t have the financial means to pay for a tangi or funeral, or to travel to court hearings. So we can provide financial assistance through our Victim Assistance Scheme to help them.”

Ongoing donations needed

This year BayTrust gave $10,000 to Victim Support which was split between their Tauranga, Eastern Bay of Plenty (Whakatane), Rotorua, and Taupo offices.

While the not-for-profit organisation does receive government funding, they still have to fundraise over $1 million each year – $38,000 of which is required to deliver their services in the Bay of Plenty.

“We do struggle to get the level of funding we need to operate our services. So the money that organisations like BayTrust give us is absolutely vital.”

Special work requires special people

Denise says it takes a special type of person to become a Victim Support volunteer, and there are now 950 of them across the country.

“Volunteers need to provide support where people are very distraught, upset, confused and angry. We need people who can manage their own emotions and behaviours in these situations.

“So we look for people who have a strong sense of social service in their community, people who are empathetic, resilient, and who have the time and energy to commit to the job we’re asking them to do.

“Our volunteers do an amazing job and we are very proud of each and every one of them.”

The work Victim Support does was recognised earlier this year when they won the nationwide ‘Community of the Year Award’ for 2014.


Coastguard Volunteers Keep Close Eye On Lake Taupo

 3 JUNE 2014

Kelly Field and her three children had a school holiday adventure to remember this year when they had to ring Lake Taupo’s Volunteer Coastguard to come to their rescue.

“We took the kids out for a ride on the biscuit – we had six kids and three adults on board – when all of a sudden the motor wouldn’t start.

“We were the only ones out there so there was no-one else we could wave down to help, and it was too far to swim in. It was quite an experience to call on a service we hoped we’d never need but we’d always supported.”

 

Always at the ready

Coastguard Vice-President John Bates and his crewmates came to the family’s aid, towing them back to shore in their 9m-long Naiad rigid inflatable rescue boat.

“Kelly was an excellent skipper and had done everything right,” John says. “But by the time we got them back to the ramp it was dark. It made them realise it would have been a pretty cold night out there.”

The Fields are among dozens of callouts the Lake Taupo Volunteer Coastguard responds to each month. Breakdowns are the most common reason, but crew members are often involved in searching the vast shoreline as well.

“We spend many hours searching for Alzheimer’s patients who have gone missing along the shore, or fishermen who have disappeared. Boats can also get swamped if the lake cuts up rough,” John explains.

“This lake can be pretty angry. Because it’s fresh and not salt water, it can be very unforgiving. The density is less so the boats sit lower in the water and the waves hit much harder.”

The organisation operates a three weekly roster, with six volunteers on duty in any given week.

“We all have pagers and we can be down at the wharf within 10 minutes, ready to go.”

Search technology vital

Lake Taupo’s coastguard has it’s own dedicated building, two rescue vessels, and a team of over 20 radio operators and search coordinators to support those out on the water.

It’s capabilities have been further boosted in 2014 thanks to a BayTrust grant of $9,180. The money has been used to upgrade crucial search technology called ‘TracPlus’ and to purchase new night vision and thermal imaging goggles.

TracPlus software keeps a record of exactly where Coastguard boats have been in the water. It allows the search controller to see if there’s an area of water that’s been missed when multiple crews are out searching at once.

“It’s a great piece of kit and will really enhance our ability to search for missing people. If there’s a gap we’ve missed, we can easily see it and double back.”

The new night vision goggles are also a big improvement and will help save lives, John says.

“We bought our old ones 10 years ago and the technology has improved a hell of a lot since then. It just makes finding things in the dark so much easier and quicker.”

John says he and his fellow volunteers have put a lot of effort into making their organisation as effective as possible. Lake Taupo’s Volunteer Coastguard has been running for 25 years.

“It’s a really good unit that works well together and gets the job done.”


Connecting Parents Who Truly Understand Life’s Challenges

 MAY 2014

 

When Ellie Griffin’s son, Zachary, was diagnosed with a rare syndrome, she turned to Parent to Parent for support.

The organisation helps people like Ellie get in touch with other parents who are dealing with the exact same medical problems for advice and support.

“It was immensely helpful because Zachary has quite a rare condition so it was great to talk to another mum who was a few years down the track,” says the Papamoa mother-of-three. “It’s useful for practical information as well – what has and hasn’t worked for other parents.”

 Zachary Griffin with his brothers Harrison and Finley

Zachary is now 8 and Ellie has returned the favour by supporting other parents who are just starting their journey with sick, special needs or disabled children.

“I remember how overwhelming everything was when Zachary was born. We found ourselves in unfamiliar territory with lots of medicalised information. There were a lot of unknowns.

“Now, eight years on, my main focus is enjoying (as with our other boys), the wonderful and fulfilling aspects of being Zachary’s Mum. It’s great being able to support other parents by letting them know things will get better.”

Extensive network

Parent to Parent Coastal BOP regional coordinator, Karen Williams, says 640 local families are now connected through the organisation.

“Nobody really knows what it’s like for a parent than another parent who’s already done it. Only they can offer real support and understanding,” she says.

“Parents feel exhausted, emotional and overwhelmed. It might be that they’re looking for information about a special procedure or operation or they just want to connect with another parent and know they’re not on their own.”

Parent to Parent first began in Auckland in 1983 and now has 13 branches nationwide catering for 3600 different conditions – everything from ADHD to rare abnormalities.

Medical help

Packs of medical information that are accurate and easy-to-understand are sent out to families on request, so parents don’t have to trawl through the internet looking for answers.

“Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. It can be quite frightening so we give them the medical facts about their child’s particular condition in a way they can understand.”

Wide-ranging support

Parent to Parent are strong advocates for the disability sector, working with Government officials to form new policy.

Karen says the Coastal BOP branch is also heavily involved in providing activities and workshops for affected families.

This year BayTrust is contributing $18,000 towards the branch’s operational costs so they can provide this crucial support.

“We run a number of family days and ‘sib camps’. Siblings often tend to miss out and suffer because mum and dad have to look after their special needs child. These camps are a safe place where they can be children, express their feelings and know they’re not on their own.”

 Parent To Parent’s sibling camps provide great family support

‘Empowering women’ yoga sessions have also begun thanks to BayTrust. Williams says a lot of mums suffer from depression and yoga is one way of helping them look after themselves so they can then look after their families.

Weekly art classes in conjunction with the Turning Point Mental Health Trust and local artist Nick Eggleston are another form of therapy for parents, while regular training workshops and personal support courses are also held.

“We teach parents how to look for the circles of support around them, and about issues like mainstream education and how to get the best outcome for their child.”

A shoulder to lean on

Karen says many parents are on a journey of grief, and connecting with others in the same boat can make all the difference.

“We are not a social agency. We’re a number on the fridge on a bad day when they need to shout or cry or need help understanding a letter they’ve just received from their child’s doctor.

“We’re their support.”

 Papamoa mum Ellie Griffin with her son, Zachary


Growing through Grief – The Seasons Programme Story

8 MAY 2014

 

It is unfortunate that we do not live in a perfect world and often our children are the victims this imperfect society.   Growing Through Grief-The Seasons Programme is a programme for children and young people who are suffering  grief and loss in their lives.   This can be through family breakdown, separation, and divorce.   Death of a family member or someone close to the child through illness, suicide, accident, murder or natural causes.   It is also for children who come from other towns, cities or countries and find it hard to settle.   In fact the programme is for children who suffer any sort of grief.

The programme runs for nine weeks of the school term.   The children are divided into groups of 3-5 with children of a similar age and similar loss.   Each group is facilitated by a trained facilitator and the content is child-centred with activities that include stories, artwork, music and games to suit each age group.   Each session builds onto the next one so it is vital that the children attend all nine sessions.

We are fortunate in having a group of highly trained and dedicated volunteer facilitators who have  great success with the children.   We get good feedback from both parents and children.

The caregiver of a 12 year old said “Jannie found the programme very useful.   She now has different strategies for coping.   Thank you for the opportunity for her to freely talk about her feelings.

Parent of an 8 year old boy:- “Billy now feels good about himself.   I have noticed a change in his behaviour and self-esteem.   I would definitely recommend the programme to others.   Thank you for your efforts.   The programme has been amazing for Billy.

A 9 year old girl:- I enjoyed making a map of my life.   It helped me feel better about my life and it was fun.   I felt sad when I started the programme but feel happy now.”

An 11 year old girl: “Seasons showed me that letting your anger out on a pillow is ok.   I was very upset and emotional when I began the programme but feel happy now.   It was good to make new friends.

For us, the most amazing thing is to see the sad, shy, angry and often surly children leave 9 weeks later happy and confident.

We also run a programme for the parents and caregivers of the children who attend.  This takes place at the same time as the children’s programme and along similar lines.   Parents often comment that it is good to know they are not the only ones with problems and it is good to meet others and talk together.

We also offer a programme called Life Threatening Illness which is for children and young people who have a family member or someone close to them dying of an illness.   This helps the children to come to terms with what is happening and gives them so skills to help them through.   About 3 months after the death has occurred they come to the 9 weeks “Seasons” programme.
This is a programme we are passionate about and we are pleased to be part of helping the children in our hurting community.

For further information please contact the coordinators
Gaelyn or Shona on 350 3384 or email gtgrotorua@seasons.org.nz.

If you are looking for where this Seasons programme is available in your area, please link here.


Celebrating The Talents Of Our Most Gifted Kids

5 MAY 2014

Across New Zealand, special groups of children are playing chess, curating museum exhibitions and learning complex mathematical equations.

These are no ordinary classrooms, and these are no ordinary children.

They are gifted kids and The Gifted Children’s Advancement Charitable Trust is helping them realize their own potential.

The ‘Gifted Kids’ programme began in 2000. Intellectually and creatively gifted children aged 6 to 13 now spend one day a week away from their normal school to study in ‘Gifted Kids’ classrooms all over New Zealand.

 Rotorua’s Gifted Kids hard at work designing a special museum exhibition on patterns

Pushing Their Boundaries

“Kids come to us to explore and be challenged in their area of talent,” explains trust fundraising and events co-ordinator, Ta’ase Vaoga.

“They are often two or three years ahead of their peers in their area of strength and like to explore things more in-depth and at a faster rate than others.”

As well as studying their particular area of interest, the children collectively learn about critical thinking, big picture and strategic thinking, as well as emotional development.

“They learn about what it means to be gifted, and how to use their gifts in a constructive way such as service to others. These kids are very passionate but often their peers don’t understand because they’re talking about really complex issues.”

 

Happier Kids

Vaoga says many gifted kids become “bored and disengaged” from their regular learning because they’re not being challenged in their regular school environment. But once they’re involved in Gifted Kids, other areas of their school and home life also improve.

“They make life-long friends at Gifted Kids as well. I’ve heard kids say ‘no-one understand me’ or ‘my ideas are weird’. But they know these other kids think the same way they do, so they connect on that level.”

Scholarship Support

Rotorua’s Gifted Kids programme caters for 43 students at present and this year BayTrust gave $9600 towards six hardship scholarships.

“Parent donations provide about 10 per cent of the funding required to run the Rotorua programme, so we rely on donations from supporters such as BayTrust to make Gifted Kids happen.”

Transforming Lives

Sunset Primary School hosts the Gifted Kids students each week and one Rotorua student says he loves going to his class each Wednesday.

“It is so much fun… it’s challenging and makes you think. I try so hard and I learn so much. I want to go every day.”

The boy’s parents say the work Gifted Kids has done to develop, encourage and release their son’s imagination is amazing.

“This school has changed my son’s life. He mixes with children like him. I can’t begin to say how lucky we are he’s had this chance to attend…the results achieved are outstanding.”

 

Community Association Brings Rotorua Suburb Together

by YVONNE BALDOCK on 31 MARCH 2014

in ALLGOOD NEWS

Each week Rotorua’s Lisa Ardern brews some hot coffee, lays out the baking and looks after mums who are caring for the littlest members of our community.

She has been hosting the Western Heights Parent and Child Playgroup for the past three years at Community House on Brookland Rd – a building run by the Western Heights Community Association.

Last year BayTrust gave the association $15,000 towards the building’s rent and upkeep.

“It’s a real blessing,” Ms Ardern says. “There’s not many venues available where you don’t have to pay a tremendous amount of money. Community House is free to use so we don’t have to charge the mums anything, which is great because with young babies most of them aren’t working.”

Ms Ardern encourages the mums to share opinions and advice on parenting issues while their youngsters play. “It’s a really valuable get-together. Having someone take the baby from you so you can have a nice hot coffee and relax can make all the difference,” she says.

 The Western Heights Community Association’s Community House provides a great venue for many groups

Focal Point

Western Heights Community Association chairman Owen Roberts says Community House is now home to a raft of different organisations who use it as their base.

“We’ve had the building now for the past four years and it’s developed into a real community hub,” he says.

“Plunket nurses use it to run their clinics, as well as the mums’ coffee group. Maori Wardens use it to operate from. We also have a community mental health psychologist and nurse here, police use it for occasional meetings. And we’re about to start having a Justice of the Peace available on a regular basis.”

Community gardens are tended by local school children outside Community House, and the vegetables grown are given away in food parcels made up by the community association’s volunteers.

 

These activities are just some of the ways the Western Heights Community Association hasnow branched out from its original focus on reducing crime in the busy Rotorua suburb.

Knights To The Rescue

“We began in the late 1990s and the original driving force was the local community constable. We started a community patrol called the Western Knights Community Patrol which is still going strong today.”

Mr Roberts says a team of 20 volunteers regularly drive around Western Heights on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, keeping an eye out for any trouble and calling the police if necessary.

“It has certainly helped reduce crime. Being the eyes and ears of the police means they are a lot more aware of what’s happening in our area.”

The association runs a graffiti patrol also, where volunteers identify new tags and contact the Rotorua District Council or the Corrections Department to organize their removal.

“There’s nothing worse than going into a suburb and seeing a lot of graffiti,” Mr Roberts says. “Removing it quickly makes everyone feel better about their neighbourhood.”

Supporting The Suburb

The community association currently has 30 active members and is always looking for ways to improve the lives of local residents.

It lobbies the council on various issues, from alcohol policy to speed humps, and recently organized for a heart defibrillator to be installed at the local Four Square store in case of emergency.

Mr Roberts (who has been a retailer in the area for 33 years) believes the community association is a great way for people to support one another.

“It’s about trying to keep the place looking good and having a vested interest in the people and community groups around us.”


Katikati Community Resource Centre Make Their Community Their Business

17 MARCH 2014

 

Kids love the Katikati Community Resource Centre’s school holiday programme

School holidays can be a trying time for many parents who struggle to keep their kids entertained – but Katikati youngsters have no shortage of options thanks to the town’s local resource centre.

Model planes, bush adventures, pavement chalk art, dinosaur dress-ups, forensic science and Japanese cooking are just some of the school holiday programme activities organized by the Katikati Community Resource Centre.

For as little as $3 or $5 a session, the school holiday programme coordinator and ateam of tutors (funded by BayTrust) along with volunteers and local sports clubs put on as many as 80 separate activities for up to 150 children per day.

More Than Just Fun

Katikati Community Resource Centre manager Chris Ridder says the holiday programme is regarded as an essential social service in the rural town.

“The holiday programmes contribute to a reduced feeling of isolation among the youth of Katikati by enabling them to have experiences that would normally be beyond their reach, and particularly that of families on low incomes,” Chris explains.

The activities help improve kids’ self-esteem and confidence, and give them the chance to experience real achievement in their lives, she says.

“They also contribute to a strengthening of families by providing support to parents during holiday times, which can become crisis times if young people are unable to be constructively engaged or the family situation is already strained.”

Funding Helps Provide Answers

The resource centre has been a hub for Katikati’s community since 1993. Last year BayTrust gave the resource centre $20,000 to help with operational costs.

Aside from the school holiday programme, the money also helps employ staff to run the centre’s valuable information and advisory service.

The staff can collectively answer almost any question about local services and issues, and aim to offerpeople a choice of services and support available for their situation.

“We are well networked,” Chris explains. “Questions might be as simple as ‘does Katikati have a foodbank and how can I access it?’ Or they might have parenting questions, need help with a legal matter or writing a CV.

“Last year we were asked ‘how do I get out a kitten stuck behind a hot water cylinder?’We also have a lot of transient people and new settlershere for seasonal work so we often get people coming in who have multiple needs and leave with a wide variety of information.”

Imparting Healthy Advice

The information and advisory service also plays a key role in getting important health messages into people’s homes.

Staff members organize promotional displays around family violence, well child, sun-smart, asthma awareness, cancer awareness, quit smoking, mental health awareness, plus offer regular parenting programmes and men’s and women’s health nights.

“We’re currently organising another health and wellbeing expo where we will have over 66 exhibitors to show people the range of health services that are available in Katikati and Tauranga. Last time we held one we had over 1000 people come through the door in five hours. It’s a huge event.”

 

 


Church Helps Keep The Cupboards Full In Kawerau

17 FEBRUARY 2014

Having to ask for a food parcel because you cannot afford to buy groceries is a humbling experience.

Hundreds of people in that exact predicament approach Kawerau Assembly of God House of Hope minister Sharon Heke every year to ask for help. “Often it’s through sickness or a crisis situation that people get into trouble,” she explains.

“And we’re happy to give the food because it’s not the children’s fault if their parents are in trouble or have spent their money unwisely.”

Kawerau’s food bank has been operating for the past 24 years and Sharon has overseen its operation for nearly a decade. A team of volunteers divide bulk food items into smaller parcels to cater for singles, couples and families of various sizes.

The Food Parcels Contain All The Essentials

“What they get depends on how big the family is and how old the kids are – if they’re teenagers we throw in a couple of extra cans,” Sharon says. A typical food parcel will include milk, bread, margarine, cereal, flour, sugar, tea or coffee, rice, pasta, tinned fish and fruit, spaghetti, baked beans and toilet paper.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are also given when they’re available from the local community garden.

Once people have received one food parcel they must seek budgetary advice before they are allowed a second one. And Sharon says the Government’s insistence that all beneficiaries receive budget advice is having a positive impact.

“Our figures for the last year have just gone down which is fantastic. It means it’s actually working.”

Last year a total of 307 food parcels were given out by Sharon and her team, compared with 420 the year before.

 

BayTrust donated $2000 in the last financial year towards operational costs and the church’s annual charity Christmas lunch.

“As well as the food bank we also run a community soup kitchen every Friday lunchtime. There’s no Salvation Army here in Kawerau so we do a lot of the practical things in the community.”