You can measure a community’s spirit by the size of its heart – and in Whakatane, that heart is sizeable indeed.
The Have a Heart charitable trust was founded in 2013. Their purpose is to grow great families at the heart of Eastern Bay of Plenty communities, connecting with those most vulnerable and creating safe homes and happy families.
The trust’s project ‘Heart to Home’ helps over 500 families every year to source much-needed clothing, bedding, and other household items free of charge. The project was initiated from all the excess and accumulated clothing, curtains and bedding from various opportunity shops which the trust’s volunteers collect before washing, drying and redistributing them.
“What makes us a little different is there is no paperwork to be filled out for people. People can book an appointment to come and they feel at ease as they are able to pick what they need, all for free,” explains Have A Heart’s Funding Coordinator Wendy Anderson.
“We have also provided packages to hapu mamas and first time mothers who do not have the essentials for their newborn. We regularly receive word of mouth referrals, as well as from local social workers and other service providers, reaching out for their clients.”
Wendy says many people would be surprised by the number of families who cannot afford the basics like food and clothing for themselves or their tamariki.
“During the most recent lockdown (August 2021) the Have a Heart charitable trust worked with the New Zealand Food Network and the Ministry of Social Development, partnering with Waiariki Whanau Mentoring and the Tohu Ahurewa Kaitohutohu Trust. Together we packed up and delivered 533 food parcels to the most vulnerable whanau throughout the Whakatane, Taneatua and Ruatoki areas.”
Heart to Home is fortunate to have a strong base of volunteers. “Often what happens is a lot of people that receive our clothing help will want to give back as well. So they’ll donate their time and volunteer for us down the track to help others.”
Range of Support
Every year over 1500 people turn out to the ‘Heart to Heart Expo’ where the trust’s own initiatives (like Heart to Home) are showcased alongside other support agencies like Plunket, Diabetes NZ and Grey Power. Since 2020 two expos have been held – one in Whakatane and one in Kawerau.
“It’s a big free family-friendly event where we have bouncy castles and activities for the children plus food, and all the different local agencies set up inside showcasing what they do. It’s all about connecting people and identifying what support is out there in the Eastern Bay of Plenty community.”
The trust also runs a programme called ‘SafeMan, SafeWoman, SafeFamily EBOP’ – a peer-led support group that recognises that perpetrators of violence have often previously been childhood victims.
The Eastern Bay project has been running for roughly two years with a focus on Māori men helping Māori men to realise their full potential. This is achieved through support groups, telephone contact being available 24/7 and referral to relevant agencies if required. “There's nothing like it really in the Eastern Bay and is really making a big difference to people’s lives.”
BayTrust has granted $20,000 to Have A Heart to help cover their operational costs for 2022 – money which Wendy describes as “essential” for sustaining their work. “Without funding like this, we wouldn’t be able to support as many people as we are currently able to. Have a Heart is in the privileged position of being able to support many other smaller projects and local initiatives such as ‘Heart to Home’ and ‘Waste Not Want Not’, ensuring support for our Eastern Bay communities.”
Some of the money will be spent on wages for facilitators of various programmes and the cost of running the SafeMan and SafeWoman support groups. The rest will help pay rent, petrol and other running costs such as washing powder and bags used to redistribute clothes.
“A lot of people out in the community probably don’t realise we are there unless they’re touched by us…but great things are happening in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. We’re always such a fantastic community here and I think we’re very lucky that we have such an amazing amount of people who are willing to help, to volunteer, to give time.”
Wendy says there is a big need for the wide range of services that Have a Heart provides.
“We are here, and we are willing to support. All people need to do is ask. And if we don’t know we’ll find somebody or we’ll know somebody that does know!”