Empowering a community of kindness
EmpowermentNZ offers Te Puke’s needy everything from a shower, to a meal, to counselling. The community hub welcomes the homeless, the lonely and – increasingly – the working poor, and surrounds them with support, education and love. Trinity Lands is proud to be EmpowermentNZ’s largest corporate donor, enabling the phenomenal work they do for those struggling in the heart of Kiwifruit country.
Jo was living in a car in Te Puke, fearful and suicidal, when she heard about EmpowermentNZ.
She came for a free shower and a feed, but stayed for the support, encouragement and educational courses which have turned her life around. EmpowertmentNZ’s social work manager Deborah Nicol secured Jo emergency housing but, recently, Jo achieved a significant milestone by transitioning in to a boarding situation.
Today, rather than accepting a free hamper from the hub’s food bank, she has saved up to pay $10 for one. It is a gesture which demonstrates that she is growing in independence every week.
“It teaches me to be independent and not rely on them when I don’t need to. It’s very empowering.”
EmpowermentNZ is a social service provider just off Te Puke’s main street. It is run by trained staff and committed volunteers who offer a programme of courses and services which support Te Puke’s socially disadvantaged to rebuild their lives.
Some clients have debilitating mental health conditions, some are victims of fractious relationships, some have encountered more bad luck than seems possible. They come to EmpowermentNZ by referral from another agency, or word of mouth.
An elderly man walks in the door with a bag.
“I hear I can have a shower here?”
An hour later he is clean, smiling, sitting at a table eating piping hot scrambled eggs amongst new friends.
Trinity Lands is the largest of a handful of corporate donors who enable EmpowermentNZ to offer a wide range of opportunities. Social work manager Deborah Nicol says she is so grateful for the support of Trinity Lands and other horticulture companies, who demonstrate a commitment to the town at the centre of New Zealand’s thriving kiwifruit industry.
The EmpowermentNZ hub runs its own services – such as budgeting advice, advocacy, and the food bank – but it is also available as a venue for other community programmes.
Hāpai Māmā is a 9-week childbirth and parenting course with an emphasis on Te Ao Māori. Programme manager Waikamania Thompson-Dinsdale brings in a host of speakers to cover topics as diverse as traditional Māori birth practices, family tax credits and correct fitting of car seats.
The bonds created in the group as are important as the knowledge they gain.
“We are hoping to build a community of māmā so when we’re not around, they can lean on each other.”
First-time mother Alamoni Taufa, 19, says she doesn’t know many women her age who are pregnant, so the course is helping connect her with a network of young people going through the same experience. Te Arani Edwards is pregnant with her fifth baby. She says she keeps coming along to the course during each of her pregnancies because she continues to learn, and enjoys supporting the new mums.
At one recent Tuesday session, Rongoa specialist Kimi Peachy talks about traditional remedies, using everyday items such as honey, garlic and onions to boost mothers’ immune systems.
The next morning, local hairdresser Shar Singleton sets up a salon in a corner of the main room to offer free haircuts for staff, volunteers and clients.
After a hot meal of scrambled eggs, with her newly-purchased food hamper by her feet, Jo lines up for the first haircut she’s had in years – and reflects on the impact the EmpowermentNZ hub has had on her life.
“It’s been a really rough year and without these guys, I probably wouldn’t be here – and that’s no exaggeration,” Jo says.
“They gave me hope when I had none.”