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Wesley Community Action works in communities throughout Wellington to help people create better lives for themselves and their whānau.

Our work is based on the belief that people are the experts in their own lives. We support them to identify their strengths and skills and the changes they believe will allow them to have a better life.

We work with people and communities of all ages, backgrounds and stages of life.

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We believe in the power of the community, we are motivated by compassion, and we seek lasting, transformative change

What we do

Wesley Community Action works in communities throughout Wellington to help people create better lives for themselves and their whānau. Read more

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Get involved with Wesley Community Action and help us to be the best at bringing out the best in the communities we serve. Read more

About Wesley Community Action

Established in 1952 by the Methodist Church, we've been pioneering innovative approaches to social justice and helping to create just and caring communities ever since. Read more

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We work in communities throughout the Greater Wellington area including Wellington City, Hutt City, Upper Hutt, Porirua and the Kapiti Coast / Otaki. Read more

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Your donation is important as we continue to work in new and (sometimes) risky social initiatives. Read more

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If you share our values of community, compassion and change and would like to help support people in our community get through some tough times, please make a donation today. However you are able to help, your generosity will mean the world of difference to people in the Wellington region. Thank you. Read more

Real Talk parenting course makes a real difference

Christine Remuera’s great-granddaughter no longer gets lollies and money as rewards for getting dressed in the morning or putting away her school bag when she gets home. Instead, the five-year-old, who lives with Christine several days a week, can choose different rewards, such as spending more time in the park or taking a friend with her to the pool. And the results from such a small change have been amazing. “It’s so good, the house is so peaceful,” says Christine (pictured with her great-grand-daughter), who took part in Wesley Community Action’s first Real Talk parenting course in mid-2018. The six-week course also helped Christine appreciate the benefits of spending even small amounts of focused time with a child. “I learned how to be an active parent, not just passing them off and saying ‘go and do something else’. What’s 10 or 15 minutes a day?” In fact, Christine found the Real Talk parenting course so useful she encouraged two of her grandchildren, both of whom have young children, to sign up for the course. Real Talk was developed by Wesley Waitangirua staff members Lizzie Makalio and Rosa Ariu. It was inspired by the Incredible Years parenting course which Wesley ran for several years but it’s shorter – six weeks instead of 15 – and it’s been refocused to meet the needs of parents and grandparents living in the Porirua area. “It’s about taking parenting classes designed for the Brady Bunch and delivering them to the Hekes,” says Lizzie. The course covers a range of topics, including the difference between discipline and punishment, and the importance of praising good behaviour rather than focusing on bad behaviour. “A lot of the whānau don’t want to praise, they see it as a bit fluffy and upper-class. So we look at why children need to be praised, and how it lifts their self-esteem.” Real Talk is one of several programmes being funded by a grant from the JR McKenzie Trust to help ensure children in eastern Porirua have happy, healthy childhoods and their parents, carers and extended whanau experience being part of a caring and supportive community. For more information about Real Talk contact Wesley Waitangirua: 04 235 5750

News alert: Pay equity for Oranga Tamariki social workers

26 September 2018 The Methodist Alliance welcomes the landmark pay equity deal for Oranga Tamariki social workers but ask is it really pay equity when social workers in community organisations working alongside Oranga Tamariki have been left out of the agreement. The three Missions –  Wesley Community Action, Christchurch Methodist Mission and Lifewise  – are significant providers of support to families, youth and children under Oranga Tamariki contracts. Collectively they have a significant number of social workers working with Oranga Tamariki. Moira Lawler, Chief Executive of Lifewise notes the irony of the approach: “Social workers are a family of professionals trained to help people achieve justice – and this is not just.” “Our social workers are skilled, passionate and committed. They do the same hard graft Oranga Tamariki staff do, they shouldn’t be disadvantaged for choosing to work with a community organisation,” says Lawler. Jill Hawkey, Executive Director of Christchurch Methodist Mission, says making community organisations wait nine months risks creating an exodus from the very partners Oranga Tamariki needs. “NGOs are crucial to achieving the change and innovation we all need to improve the outcomes for whānau and children,” says Hawkey. Although Minister Tracey Martin has directed Oranga Tamariki to work with the community sector to report on the potential impact, the Missions are concerned how this will happen. “We are not reassured by this,” says David Hanna, Director of Wesley Community Action. “It was clear what the impact would be from the start. We are calling on the PSA and other unions, and the government to do the right thing now.” ___

What's on at Wesley Rata Village

December 2018

What’s on at Rātā Village in December

Ageing Well Coffee Group

Xxam to xxpm, Monday December 3, location Xxam to xxpm, Monday December 17, location

Ageing Well Group

10am to 2pm, Tuesday December 4, location 10am to 2pm, Tuesday December 11, location 10am to 2pm, Tuesday December 18, location

Rātā Playgroup

10am to 12pm Tuesday December 4, Rec Hall 10am to 12pm, Tuesday December 11, Rec Hall.

Seniors Club

12pm to 2.30pm, Wednesday December 5, Community room 12pm to 2.3pm, Wednesday December 12, Community Room

Naenae Forest Playgroup

9.30-11.30 , Thursday December 6, Meet at Rec Hall 9.30 to 11.30, Thursday December 20, meet at Rec Hall    

Wanted: young people for a youth advisory panel in Porirua

We’re looking for young people aged 12 to 24 to join a youth advisory panel to help design and create the activities that will improve the wellbeing of children and young people in Porirua and provide them with opportunities to reach their potential. We’re one of four organisations with strong links to Porirua which recently received funding from Porirua City’s Making an Impact Fund to establish a project called Te Roopu Tiaki Rangatahi. The project aims to remove barriers for local young people so their talents can shine. Te Roopu Tiaki Rangatahi is a collaborative effort between Wesley Community Action, Maraeroa Health Clinic, Taeoamanino Trust and the Tumai Hauora Ki Porirua Alliance. The youth advisory panel is central to the project. Wesley Community Action youth worker Fritz Toleafoa says joining the panel of eight young people will provide an opportunity to be part of an important and exciting project, and to learn new skills and meet other youth leaders in the Porirua community. “We’ll even provide transport to get to and from the advisory meetings – and there’ll be good kai  too.” He says they want the panel to be as representative as possible of the Porirua community. “We want it to include a wide range of different kinds of people.” * To find out more or register your interest in being considered for the youth advisory panel, contact Fritz Toleafoa, 021 193 9044 or 04 235 5750.  

Wanted: a sponsor for an eftpos machine at our Porirua Fruit & Vege Co-op

We’re looking for someone to sponsor an eftpos machine to make it easier for people to buy cheap, healthy produce from the Porirua Fruit and Vegetable Co-op. More than 100 people buy $12 bags of fruit and vegetables from the co-op's Cannons Creek packing hub every week, but many operate on such tight budgets that they cannot commit to making regular automatic payments from their bank accounts. They prefer to pay with cash – or by eftpos if they don’t have enough cash on them. Porirua Fruit and Vegetable Co-op co-ordinator Gene McCarten says the co-op’s core values are accessibility and affordability. Having an eftopos machine at the Cannons Creek packing hub would remove one of the obstacles to getting access to the produce. “We want to take away every possible hurdle and make it easy for people to buy affordable, wholesome fruit and vegetables,” he says. The cost of the eftopos machine would be $44.30 a month. If you’d like to help meet this cost, contact Kena Duignan, our Community Innovation Lead on kduignan@wesleyca.org.nz or 021 190 3818 Find out more about the Wellington Regional Fruit and vegetable Co-op

Community housing project at former Wesleyhaven Village

We're delighted to announce that we have signed an agreement today (December 11) with Masterton prefabricated home provider EasyBuild to build 25 affordable rental homes at the former Wesleyhaven Village in Naenae. The homes will be made available to applicants on the Government’s Housing Register for people who have been assessed as eligible for social housing and are waiting to be matched to a house. Work on the $8.4 million project at what is now known as Wesley Rātā Village is expected to start early in 2019. It will take the number of affordable rental homes at the Village to 55. The project is the first major step towards redeveloping Wesley Rātā Village, which was previously a resthome and hospital. It is an initiative of the Methodist Church and involves a partnership between three Methodist organisations. They are Wesley Community Action, which owns the land and is leading the redevelopment of the Village;  Airedale Property Trust,  a specialist housing agency which will be the project manager for the new build, and the Methodist Trust Association, which is the principal funder.

A place to share across the generations

Wesley Community Action director David Hanna says the project is part of the organisation’s wider vision to use the 60-hectare site to strengthen community by providing quality  rental homes for mostly older residents and creating  places for the local community to gather and share across the generations. “We want to grow a village  where older people can live amongst a range of ages, maintaining their independence while supporting each other.” He says Wesley Community Action has become increasingly concerned about the growing number of baby boomers entering older age with no permanent home and few assets. “Through our many years of working with vulnerable older people we know that a growing number of them will spend their later years in sub-standard rental accommodation. This can put them at greater risk of loneliness and poor health. We want to help fill this gap by creating an intergenerational community with older people at its heart.” The 25 homes will consist of eight 1-bedroom houses, 13 2-bedroom houses (pictured) and four 4-bedroom houses. Wellington architect John Mills has developed a plan for the site to ensure each home gets privacy, sun and views, and to encourage interactions between residents. As well as the new homes the wider redevelopment  will include communal space, outdoor areas and a “village green” for residents.

Focusing on older people

Mr Hanna says it’s likely that the four larger homes will be occupied by family groups. However, the focus in Wesley Rātā Village will continue to be older people, as it has been since the first residents moved into self-contained villas built by the Methodist Church in 1953. “Wesleyhaven was very innovative when it was first built – it was one of the first retirement villages in New Zealand with a hospital, resthome and villas. We’re continuing that tradition of innovation with this development. Wesley Rātā Village will be a place to explore new ways of re-creating a diverse community that has caring embedded into it.” Most of the 25 new homes will be built on the site of the former Deckston Building which was demolished earlier this year. However there are no plans to demolish the other two main buildings on the site, The Strand and the former Wesleyhaven Hospital. These two buildings, along with several others on the site, are already being used for a range of community activities. These include an Ageing Well group, a Positive Seniors Club, regular community meals, an intergenerational play group, a nature playgroup  and a project to make the native bush on the site site’s bush more accessible to the local community being carried out in partnership with Naenae Nature Trust. “We will continue to work closely with the Naenae community to develop Wesley Rātā Village into a place that helps re-weave community and build a sense of connectedness and belonging for all age groups.”

New report on progress at Wesley Rātā Village

Our Community Innovation Lead, Kena Duignan, has written a report looking at what's been happening at Wesley Rātā Village since we made the difficult decision to close our resthome and hospital in Naenae in August 2017. Tō Tātau Haerenga Whakahou: Wesley Rātā Village Our Journey of Renewal outlines our progress to date, our theories of change, our collaborations, the lessons we’ve learned and the mahi ahead. It also shares some key facts and figures and some of the stories that bring them to life. Significant achievements at the Village so far include:
  • starting an $8.4m project to build 25 social houses that will be available to rent by people on the National Housing Register
  • hosting the Kiwi Can Do job-skills training course in our old hospital building. Participants will help assemble the 25 prefabricated houses being built on the site.
  • continuing to host the Rātā Playgroup and started a new playgroup, Ngā Weriweri ō Naenae Nature Playgroup. We also won a contract with the Ministry of Education to run the Incredible Years parenting course at the Village in 2019.
  • designing and running a successful 10-week Ageing Well course for isolated older people in a dementia-friendly environment
  • hosting 126 events and having 1040 visits, many of them repeat visits by people who regularly engage with us
  • partnering with the Naenae Nature Trust to plant 250 trees (with a focus on Rākau Rangatira - chiefly trees) and bring people into nature to connect and be inspired.
Download a full copy of the report  Download a 2-page summary of the report.

We’re helping to find a cure for Alzheimer’s

An abandoned computer found by one of the social workers in our Elder Care Team has been brought back to life and is now working 24/7 as part of an international project to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

WesFold, as the computer is called, sits on our Elder Abuse Response Service Desk, where it  provides computing power for a project based at Stanford University called Folding at Home.

The aim of Folding at Home is to find cures for a range of diseases believed to be caused by misfolded proteins – such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease and cystic fibrosis. The project harnesses the power of more than 100,000 home computers around the world to provide a combined computational prowess that rivals that of a national supercomputer.

“There is a growing body of evidence that targeting specific proteins in the body has the potential to prevent Alzheimer's. That’s what WesFold is contributing to,” says Ken McDonnell, who found the abandoned computer on the footpath after visiting a client with dementia.

“Our team works daily with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. We know there is no cure, and we see the human, social, and emotional burden of these diseases.”

The computer was covered in dirt and ran a Linux operating system, which most people don’t know how to operate. However, that wasn’t a problem for Ken, an enthusiastic techy who soon had WesFold up and running again.  It didn’t take him long to find a new purpose for the refurbished computer: helping to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Elder Care Team manager Claire Booth (pictured left) says she’s delighted that Wesley Community Action can make a small but tangible contribution towards finding a cure for a disease that is on the increase as our population ages.

“As an organisation we’re working towards becoming Dementia Friendly; WesFold is another way of showing we are committed to meeting the needs of those whose lives are being changed by dementia.”

We're helping to find a cure for Alzheimer's

An abandoned computer found by one of the social workers in our Elder Care Team has been brought back to life and is now working 24/7 as part of an international project to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s. WesFold, as the computer is called, sits on our Elder Abuse Response Service Desk, where it  provides computing power for a project based at Stanford University called Folding at Home. The aim of Folding at Home is to find cures for a range of diseases believed to be caused by misfolded proteins – such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease and cystic fibrosis. The project harnesses the power of more than 100,000 home computers around the world to provide a combined computational prowess that rivals that of a national supercomputer. “There is a growing body of evidence that targeting specific proteins in the body has the potential to prevent Alzheimer's. That’s what WesFold is contributing to,” says Ken McDonnell, who found the abandoned computer on the footpath after visiting a client with dementia. The computer was covered in dirt and ran a Linux operating system, which most people don’t know how to operate. However, that wasn’t a problem for Ken, an enthusiastic techy who soon had WesFold up and running again.  It didn’t take him long to find a new purpose for the refurbished computer: helping to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. “Our team works daily with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. We know there is no cure, and we see the human, social, and emotional burden of these diseases.” Elder Care Team manager Claire Booth (pictured with WesFold) says she’s delighted that Wesley Community Action can make a small but tangible contribution towards finding a cure for a disease that is on the increase as our population ages. “As an organisation we’re working towards becoming Dementia Friendly; WesFold is another way of showing we are committed to meeting the needs of those whose lives are being changed by dementia.”

New role to help generate wealth in Porirua

July 19, 2019 The manager of Wesley Community Action’s Cannons Creek hub, Makerita Makapelu, is taking on a new role to help generate wealth in Porirua. Makerita is one of five “Community Generators” who have so far been appointed as part of a pilot programme called The Generator being funded by the Ministry of Social Development to transform lives in communities experiencing high levels of poverty. As a Generator, she’ll work with individuals and groups in the Porirua community to help them develop ideas for initiatives that will increase their income, reduce their costs or provide employment opportunities. “My role is to dream with people and walk alongside them as they flesh out their great ideas.  I’ve learned from my many years of experience working with people that they really need someone to believe in them and help them unpack their ideas and their thinking. I’m really  excited to be able to focus on doing that.” Once they have worked with Makerita to refine their ideas, participants in the pilot programme will get access to an online platform to help them develop a business plan and work out what they need to do to get their initiative up and running. They may then be eligible for seed funding to help implement their idea. “It’s about dreaming it, planning it, then doing it.” A total of $1m in seed funding is available during the first year of the project. Makerita,  who will continue to be based at Wesley House in Cannons Creek, has already started working with one aspiring local entrepreneur who wants to set up a food truck business.  She’s keen to hear from other people who have ideas for initiatives that could help generate wealth in Porirua. Wesley Community Action is one of five organisations that have been contracted by MSD to carry out the pilot programme, which is being coordinated by a partnership between social service agencies Emerge Aotearoa and Vaka Tautua. The other organisations are based in Gisborne, Whanganui, South Auckland and Franklin.

Helping to find local solutions to local problems

Makerita says becoming a Generator makes sense for her as a lot of her work with Wesley Community Action over the last 14 years has involved working alongside the Cannons Creek community to come up with local solutions to local problems – particularly the problems caused by poverty and high levels of debt. These solutions include the Good Cents financial wellbeing programme, the Wellington Region Fruit and Vegetable Co-op and the Porirua Timebank. More than 300 people have now taken the 8-week Good Cents course since it was set up at Wesley Community Action’s Cannons Creek hub nine years ago. It’s not a budgeting course, where a professional budget advisor decodes a person’s financial situation for them. Instead, participants work together to lead their journey, taking ownership and control of their finances. Makerita is now providing training to budget advisors working for other organisations, teaching them about group facilitation and how to bring out the best in groups. The Wellington Region Fruit and Vegetable Co-op started as a pilot project in Cannons Creek in 2014 to provide cheap, healthy produce in an area with no local supermarket.  With support from Regional Public Health and many other partners, the co-op now has 12 packing hubs in the greater Wellington region which distribute up to 9 tonnes of affordable fruit and vegetables into 1400 homes every week. More recently, Wesley Community Action has helped set up the Porirua Timebank, where members use time instead of money to gain credits they can use to get access to other people’s skills, time or knowledge. The organisation is also in the process of working with local people to set up savings pools to help them save and gain access to small, interest-free loans. Makerita says she’s excited by the possibilities The Generator project offers. “I’ve always loved to dream with people so I’m really excited about this new project because it means I can do more dreaming as part of my job.”

Contact Makerita Makapelu, Community Generator: 021 2 949 730

Porirua Promise will spread benefits of $1.5b regeneration project

We’re calling for the partner organisations involved in the $1.5 billion Porirua Development project to adopt the Porirua Promise, a set of five undertakings we believe will help ensure that everyone in East Porirua benefits from this once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

We helped develop the Porirua Promise following a 2-day learning trip to Auckland in May to get insights into the “do’s and don’ts” of large housing regeneration projects. We presented it to the development partners at a meeting on August 21 and we hope they will adopt it.

Our learning group of 22 was made up of a cross-section of people and groups active in the Porirua East community. We visited five regeneration projects already underway in Auckland to see first-hand how they have affected existing communities – both in good ways and bad.

The people we visited and talked to were extremely generous and open and the trip brought up a huge number of ideas and things to work on.

The learning group has developed the Porirua Promise as an important first step towards making sure that the Porirua regeneration project embraces the best aspects of the Auckland regeneration projects, and avoids those that have been less successful.

Wesley Community Action director, David Hanna, says the Porirua Development project has the potential to offer huge benefits to the Eastern Porirua community, there are also potential downsides, such as the possibility that some of the area’s most vulnerable residents will be displaced as housing prices rise.

“We believe that by adopting the five undertakings in the Porirua Promise, the project partners have a solid foundation on which to base the decisions they make so that everyone in East Porirua benefits from the regeneration project.”

Download the Porirua Promise

Download a report on the learning trip to Auckland

  • Many thanks to Inspiring Communities, HLC, Porirua City Council, the Social Investment Agency and the Todd Foundation for their support for the learning trip on May 22 and 23.

We’re calling for the partner organisations involved in the $1.5 billion Porirua Development project to adopt the Porirua Promise, a set of five undertakings we believe will help ensure that everyone in East Porirua benefits from this once-in-a lifetime opportunity. The five undertakings are:
  • Every person who lives in Porirua now will be able to stay in Porirua.
  • The developers will use their buying power to create new jobs and training for the people of Porirua.
  • Low-income households will be able to move into home ownership because robust financial tools like rent-to-buy and shared equity will be made available for a significant proportion of the new houses.
  • Community engagement will be guaranteed through ring-fencing funding for it.
  • An independent community Kaitiaki group will be resourced to inform the development process and keep it true to this promise.
We helped develop the Porirua Promise following a 2-day learning trip to Auckland in May to get insights into the “do’s and don’ts” of large housing regeneration projects. We’ll present it to the development partners at a meeting on August 21. Our learning group of 22 was made up of a cross-section of people and groups active in the Porirua East community. We visited five regeneration projects already underway in Auckland to see first-hand how they have affected existing communities – both in good ways and bad. The people we visited and talked to were extremely generous and open and the trip brought up a huge number of ideas and things to work on. The learning group has developed the Porirua Promise as an important first step towards making sure that the Porirua regeneration project embraces the best aspects of the Auckland regeneration projects, and avoids those that have been less successful. Wesley Community Action director, David Hanna, says the Porirua Development project has the potential to offer huge benefits to the Eastern Porirua community, there are also potential downsides, such as the possibility that some of the area’s most vulnerable residents will be displaced as housing prices rise. “We believe that by adopting the five undertakings in the Porirua Promise, the project partners have a solid foundation on which to base the decisions they make so that everyone in East Porirua benefits from the regeneration project.”

Baby uplifts spark action by Methodist Alliance members

This article was first published in the August 2019 issue of Touchstone. Several members of the Methodist Alliance are involved in a collective to help reduce the number of babies – particularly Māori babies – being uplifted at birth. Our director, David Hanna,  says this reflects a long Methodist tradition of challenging injustice. Many New Zealanders were deeply shocked when they saw graphic images of an attempted removal of a 6-day-old baby from its 19-year-old mother published in June by online news service, Newsroom.  They provided a rare glimpse into the reality of life for those who are largely powerless. The issues raised by the attempted “uplift” at Hawkes Bay Hospital by Oranga Tamariki social workers and police have now sparked four separate inquiries. But as shocking as the images were, they came as no particular surprise to me and other staff at Wesley Community Action. We have recently been involved with a very similar case. In February this year a young woman who had previously spent time with Te Waka Kotahi, our specialised foster-care programme for high-risk young people,  contacted one of our social workers to say that her baby had been taken away while she was having a shower just a few hours after giving birth. What followed was three months of often frustrating negotiations with Oranga Tamariki as we eventually found a way of reuniting the young woman and her baby – first under the supervision of staff at our home in Tawa and more recently with a whānau member supported by an iwi provider in the central North Island. We know that she will face challenges in caring for her baby. But we strongly believe that she has to be given a chance to try – and the support she needs to help her do that. As Robyn Pope, our Manager Practice observes, children in the care system have a deep longing to know that their mother tried very hard to keep them.  “This is something that sits with kids in care for the rest of their lives,” she says. We were concerned, too, about the long-term impact of uplifting the young woman’s first child at birth. The subsequent children legislation, enacted in 2016, means a parent who has had a child removed previously must prove they are capable of keeping any new baby. Removing her baby meant the young woman involved was much more likely to lose any future children. . Lifewise, our sister organisation in Auckland, has recently dealt with several similar cases. In fact, we and fellow Methodist Alliance members Lifewise and the Christchurch Methodist Mission, have been concerned about the growing number of tamariki – especially Māori tamariki – being removed from their families for some time now. The figures for newborn uplifts are particularly shocking, with Māori babies now four times more likely to be removed at birth than non-Māori babies.

Providing a voice for community and iwi organisations

To help address these significant concerns, in August last year I initiated a gathering of community and iwi organisations that provide child-protection and whānau well-being services. We wanted to make sure our voices are heard in this important debate. Our over-riding message is that we need to be doing more to support whānau under pressure, and that if children do need to be removed it should be transparent, brief, and non-recurring. The involvement of Methodist Alliance members in this collective reflects the Methodist Church’s long commitment to social-justice issues, and entails both challenging State actions that breach the Te Tiriti o Waitangi and providing practical support for people in need. We’d like to see more attention being paid to supporting parents long before a child is born – rather than social workers sweeping in immediately afterwards. We’d also like greater acknowledgment of the expertise and knowledge of organisations like ours. Our staff often have a much deeper knowledge of a whānau’s situation than those working for Government agencies. We acknowledge that in some cases children do have to be removed from their parents.  How this is done is important and we need to ensure this challenging step has been well-signalled beforehand and based on sound information. Parents should also receive on-going support so they know what they need to do to enable their children to return. Two members of the Methodist Alliance are also involved with a new programme, supported by Oranga Tamariki,  to help whānau with older children to stay together. Lifewise piloted the Mana Whānau programme last year, providing support for whānau who are at risk of having their children removed, or who need support to have their children return home from foster care. Earlier this year, Wesley Community Action set up a Mana Whānau programme based on Porirua which is achieving very positive results. We know that we are just a small piece of a very complicated puzzle. But as members of the Methodist Alliance we see our work as part of the long Methodist tradition of working alongside people in need and challenging injustice.

First four new rental homes at Wesley Rātā Village now completed

We're delighted to celebrate the next step in the renewal of the former Wesleyhaven resthome and hospital in Naenae: the completion of the first four new affordable rental homes on the site. Hutt City mayor Campbell Barry will help mark this significant milestone at a ceremony being held at Wesley Rātā Village at 10am on Wednesday November 20. The four homes are the first of 25 new rental homes being built on the site. They’ll be made available to people on the Government Housing Register, providing warm, safe, dry housing to people struggling in a difficult rental market. Our director David Hanna says it’s hoped the new tenants will move into the first four homes in the next few weeks. Work is now well underway on building the other 21 homes. He says the 25 new homes, along with 30 existing rental units, are central to our vision of developing the beautiful, 60-hectare site into a community resource that provides good homes for residents and is a place for Naenae’s community to come together and build wellbeing and resilience. “After we made the difficult decision to close Wesleyhaven we asked the community what they needed. The message came back loud and clear – warm, dry, safe homes.” Most of the new homes will be made available to older people, reflecting the site’s previous history. However,  the larger (4-bedroom) homes will be rented to families. “Healthy communities are intergenerational.  We have shifted our focus from institutional care to helping create a village of people wanting to live in their own place surrounded by opportunities to engage, contribute, and retreat.” David says the homes are about more than providing shelter. “We are an organisation committed to growing community. The existing residents’ association will be actively involved in welcoming new residents,  and all the tenants will work together to turn the units into homes – and create a community.” Support from Hutt City Council will help this to happen. We've partnered with the council, and received three years of funding, so it can continue developing a model for how the community can include and support seniors and kaumātua as they age. The $8.4m building project is being led by Wesley Community Action with support from the Methodist Trust Association, Airedale Property Trust and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. The prefabricated homes are being built by EasyBuild with support from Kiwi Can Do.

Save the date: People’s Voices, 4 March 2020

Our systems fail too many whānau. The People’s Voices forum is a unique opportunity for people who work in all the systems that are intended to help people who are struggling.  It’s an opportunity to listen to the voices of people the systems are meant to be helping. On the people’s own terms. Facilitated by Wesley Community Action, with support from Supreme Court Judge Joe Williams and Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft, the People’s  Voices forum will give funders, policymakers and decision makers a chance to listen, with the agenda set by the people themselves.  What insights do they bring that can inform solutions to our inter-connected social problems? Their message is clear:
You call us “hard to reach”. So we are reaching out to you. The system is failing us, we want to share how we are trying to respond positively … It’s time that we talked, and you listened.
When:  9am to 1pm, Wednesday 4 March, 2020 Where: Te Rauparaha Arena, Porirua More details to come in early 2020. Register your interest now – email info@wesleyca.org.nz

Innovation is part of the Methodist tradition

Wesley Community Action’s increasing focus on finding innovative ways of helping vulnerable people is part of a long Methodist tradition of disruption, writes our director, David Hanna in the latest issue of Touchstone magazine. Christian churches are often seen as conservative and out of touch, but as anyone with a knowledge of church history knows, churches have always been at the cutting edge of innovation. Many significant social movements for change had their roots in churches.  The Methodist Church  begun as an innovative movement within the establishment and it has been involved in social justice issues since the 18th century. At Wesley Community Action we are continuing this tradition, looking for innovative ways to help bring about just and caring communities. The need for innovation is clear and acute.  People with high levels of personal wealth are becoming wealthier, while people without capital and born into inter-generational hardship are being left further behind. This fuels complex responses reflected in rising levels of meth addition, poor physical and mental health and educational failure.

We need new ways of thinking

The existing ways of helping vulnerable people aren’t working. Simple charity may make the giver feel worthy – but too often it reinforces a sense of helplessness in the receiver.  The Good News is not about providing token help to people,  it’s about the transformation of individuals and society. Bringing about this transformation requires new ways of thinking and new approaches. As we have found at Wesley Community Action, this work is frequently messy and challenging – but it is also very rewarding. At the heart of our innovation work is the belief that the people experiencing hardship are the experts in their own lives. Their knowledge, insights and hard work have already resulted in a range of new community-led initiatives in the greater Wellington region. They include the Wellington Region Fruit and Vegetable Co-op which provides well-priced, good-quality fresh produce to people in 12 communities,  the Good Cents financial well-being course, community cooking classes and more recently, the Porirua Wealth Pool, a savings pool that helps people to save money rather than spend it. To better support this new approach we are now setting up a Community Innovation Hub in Porirua.  We hope the hub will allow us to strengthen our existing community-led initiatives, and grow new ones in a more intentional way. It will also provide a base from which we can evaluate, measure and share knowledge with other organisations, so we have a clearer idea about what works – and what doesn’t.

Innovation part of everything we do

Innovation isn’t just limited to our community-led initiatives.  Wesley Community Action works hard to bring new approaches and ideas into our government contracts.  Our Elder Care Team, for example, is contracted by MSD to run the Elder Abuse Response Service in the greater Wellington region, and it is contracted by two DHBs to support vulnerable, isolated older people living at home. The team is acutely aware of the significant challenge of an ageing population, and the inability of our current services to cope.  They work with other organisations and groups in the sector, sharing ideas and exploring new ways to better meet the growing need.  This includes a new ageing well network that aims to harness resources within communities to support older citizens. Our Te Kānano team is contracted by Oranga Tamariki to run the Family Start programme in the Wellington region. In the last financial year they supported 275 whānau to give their tamariki the best possible start in life. They are constantly trying out new ways to help this group flourish, such as organising a group outing to Te Papa – something many of them had never done before. This work is beyond what the government contract requires, but we believe it is essential to help trigger that transformation for a good life. Drawing on the pioneering work of our sister organisation Lifewise in Auckland, we are now running the Mana Whānau initiative in Porirua.  This collaborative approach is demonstrating that there are effective options to the State removing babies and children from whānau.  A joint evaluation is helping deepen the understanding of the changes taking place. The Methodist Alliance provides a place for organisations to share and grow their innovative approaches – and to develop this innovative and disruptive strand of Methodism.
  • This article orginally appeared in the February issue of Touchstone magazine, published by the Methodist Church

New Covid-19 protocols

We’re taking a number of steps to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. These include cancelling all  the regular community gatherings we host at Wesley Rātā Village, Wesley House in Cannons Creek, Wesley Waitangirua and in Strathmore.  (See below for a list of the affected community gatherings). We’re also introducing strict protocols for internal meetings, and for people visiting our offices – both staff and non-staff. We’ll be making further decisions about events hosted on our sites by other organisations, and we’re talking with Region Public Health about protocols for the Wellington redgion Fruit and Vegetable Co-op. We realise these are drastic steps for a critical situation. We have to take bold action to keep vulnerable people in our communities safe We are holding strong to our kaupapa – it is as important as ever. Our mahi now is to work in new ways with whānau and clients to support them to stay connected even while separate. We are exploring how we can support communities without our usual tool of bringing people together around kai to design new ideas – we need to dig deep to use all of the tools in our kete.

The affected community gatherings include:

  • Ageing Well
  • Community Connect lunches at Wesley Rātā Village
  • Good Cents
  • Real Good Kai
  • Men’s Group
  • Mama Celia’s Table
  • Real Talk
  • Bakers Club at Waitangirua
  • Te Rito Playgroup in Strathmore
  • Mums and Cubs

Update on how we’re supporting people during the lockdown

The team at Wesley Community Action is working hard to ensure we continue to help the most vulnerable people in our community while keeping them - and ourselves - safe. We have developed new, clear protocols to inform all of our work and we are re-organising our work to fit the new ‘lockdown’ environment. All our staff are working from home and using the phone or social media to check in with people. When we become aware of people who need additional support, who are struggling to cope or who are at risk of harming themselves or others, we have developed a process to get extra help to them.  This could be a food parcel, a visit from an experienced staff member, or bringing in another agency. If you aware of someone who may need additional support then email us on info@wesleyca.org.nz  or phone  04 385 3727 and someone will make contact.

Essential social service provider

Wesley Community Action is a designated essential social service provider.  This covers:
  • our community pantry (food bank) to provide food parcels
  • supporting vulnerable and isolated older people living at home
  • the Elder Abuse Response Service –­ 04 805 0880 or help@wesleyeldercare.org.nz
  • looking after young people ‘in care’ in our group home or with foster parents
  • supporting vulnerable whānau who are struggling to sustain a safe and caring home for tamariki

Donate by direct credit

It's possible to donate directly into the following bank account: 03 0558 0023 973 03 Put your first and last names in Particulars. Please email your contact details to finance@wesleyca.org.nz to let us know you have made a donation and to receive your tax receipt. Call (04) 385 3727 if you are having problems. Thank you so much for your support.

Old-school technology helps Hutt Valley seniors stay connected

Forget about video-conferencing apps like Zoom or House Party. A group of Hutt Valley seniors who usually meet at Wesley Rātā Village in Naenae every Monday afternoon are going old-school when it comes to staying in touch during the Covid-19 lockdown, using telephone calls to deepen existing friendships and develop new ones.

The 34 older people are members of Wesley Community Action’s Ageing Well network, which was established in 2018 to provide new ways for older people to maintain their wellbeing while living independently following the closure of Wesleyhaven resthome and hospital in Naenae.

The network includes a weekly coffee group at Wesley Rātā Village, when the group of seniors/kaumātua from the wider Hutt Valley community meet for coffee, sausages rolls and pikelets, laugher and lots of hugs.

“Hugs are pretty much compulsory,” says coffee group co-ordinator Tracey Scott.

All of them were disappointed that their physical weekly meetings had to stop once the lockdown started. But old-school technology – the telephone – has turned out to be a good substitute.

On the day before the lockdown began Tracey Scott and community innovation advisor Emily Innes headed out in the Village van to deliver a “Support Pack” to all the group members. It included information about Covid-19, an inspirational quote, a home-baked chocolate chip biscuit and an updated phone list for the group.

Phone list encourages Nickie to work her phone

The phone list was all the encouragement long-time member Nickie Preece needed to start getting on the blower. Soon she was having daily calls with her friend and fellow group member Diane  Roberts. But she didn’t stop there – she started calling a few others from the group who she knew less well.

“Once the lockdown began things got a bit boring at home, so I decided to start calling some of the others in the group. I ring them up and chat to them as often as I can – without being a nuisance!”

Now most of the group – all of whom are graduates of Wesley Community Action’s 10-week Ageing Well Course for isolated seniors – are regularly checking up on each other by phone, mostly using landlines rather than mobiles.

Tracey also calls each member of the group at least once a week, and encourages them to stay in touch with each other.

“I check to make sure they have food, and that they are making calls as well as receiving them. They have actually really enjoyed getting to know each other better by talking on their phones.”

The more tech-savvy (including Nickie) have even managed the occasional video call, raising the possibility that, with the right support, the rest of the group might be able to start connecting online in the future.

“We’re looking at applying for funding to buy tablets and mobiles so they can learn how to do things like Skype each other,” says Tracey. “Some older people find it hard to swipe a smartphone, but tablets are bigger so they are more user-friendly.”

Keep calm and carry on

She has found that most of the group have been around long enough to be able to weather the lockdown storm without too much distress.  One member who lived through the air raids on London during the Second World War observed that there was no point in getting too distraught about the situation: “We’ll get through it like we did in the war,” she told Tracey. Scott.

Another suggested trying to avoid watching and listening to the news as a way of coping with the situation, while one 90-year-old member is looking forward to opening a bottle of champagne once the group can meet in person again.

Find out more about the Ageing Well network.

Work with us during the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond. Visit our Donate page to make an online donation.

Our work at Level 2

We’re starting to readjust the way we work during Level 2 of the Covid-19 lockdown.

This week (starting Monday May 18) our staff will begin returning to their offices throughout Wellington, but we are limiting the number who can be in an office at any one time. Those not rostered to work in the office will continue to work from home. Staff who are working in an office must follow strict hygiene and social-distancing measures. 

We are also starting to resume home visits,  but with strict rules around social distancing and hygiene.

We’d like to thank all the communities who worked alongside us during the lockdown – it was a fantastic effort and we did it while sticking to the rules! It really was a wonderful example of community in action.

Community Pantry

Our Community Pantry is no longer doing home deliveries. However, people can pick up food parcels from the pantry from 9.30am to 1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The pantry is located at Wesley House, 206 Mulgavin Avenue, Cannons Creek. Please come up the left side of the house and knock on the back door. You can also call 04 237 7923 before you arrive.

Porirua Fruit & Vege Co-op

The Porirua Fruit & Vege Co-op has also stopped doing home deliveries. Orders need to be placed and paid for online by 5pm on Thursday,  for contactless pick-up on Tuesday. Orders can be picked up between 12pm and 4pm from Wesley House at 206 Mungavin Ave, Cannons Creek.

Group activities

We are still working out the fine details of how we can safely resume group activities such as our Real Good Kai cooking classes at Wesley House in Cannons Creek and Mama Celia’s Table at Wesley Waitangirua. We hope to start these groups up again very soon.

Home visits

Where possible staff will continue to work with people remotely. However, we now have more flexibility to do home visits if they are deemed appropriate.

  • Our staff will not go into homes if anyone there is unwell or likely to have been exposed to Covid-19.
  • Staff will observe strict social-distancing and hygiene measures.
  • Staff will use PPE in situations where some kind of physical contact is needed (such as helping an older person get into a car.

Communities have the answers in our post-lockdown world

It's time to let communities take the lead as we face our post-Covid-19 future writes our director David Hanna.

Just before the Covid-19 lockdown began many people worried how ‘vulnerable’ families in ‘low decile’ communities would fare.  During the lockdown their lives – in need of food and dealing with issues such as overcrowding and isolation – were often contrasted with the lives of those who were happily swapping sour-dough starters while working from their sunny home-offices. 

But what the last two and a half months have shown is that all communities, including those facing the greatest inequities, are strong and adaptable, and capable of leading out their own solutions.

From individuals and iwi / hapū to community organisations and businesses, people showed just how resilient they can be in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Once they were provided with clear leadership and good information, local networks kicked into gear.

I saw many examples of this local leadership in communities usually described as disadvantaged.  They included a group of isolated older people, still getting used to cell phones, who used a telephone tree to call and support each other regularly during the lockdown; young mothers who formed a closed Facebook group to share support and practical ideas; and a local timebank that linked its members with older people who were unable to leave their homes to buy food.

As we enter the post-lockdown world we need to learn from the experiences of the last few months and lift our game in how we grow well-being. The government is facing huge financial constraints and there’s a danger that the public sector will revert to a risk-averse and highly prescriptive approach to providing social services.  This would be a double tragedy. 

People are the experts in their own lives

We believe that now is the time to let local communities take the lead. Over the last few years, Wesley Community Action has worked with others to foster local responses to local problems. These initiatives are less about professional ‘experts’ delivering a social service and more about supporting people to work out their own solutions and put them into action.  The starting point of this approach is the belief that the real experts are the people who want the change.

As a result of this new approach we have seen many new and innovative ideas grow up in the communities we work with.  These include a fruit and vegetable co-operative that provides affordable, healthy produce to 12 Wellington communities, a multi-stranded programme that helps people get back in control of their finances, and an ageing well network that provides new ways for older people to maintain their wellbeing while living independently.

These initiatives are not government contracts. They don’t fit conventional models and they exist on resources cobbled together by community partners.

But their impacts have been significant. People engaged because they wanted to, and as a result they gained tangible benefits – from cheap vegetables to interest-free loans. They also strengthened their social networks and social confidence.  When we went into lockdown, we noticed that people connected to community-led initiatives were more resilient and more confident about offering to help.  That’s an important wake up call.

New ways of thinking

Now is the time for government and social service organisations to change the way we work to support this approach.  It’s not easy. At Wesley Community Action we’ve had to consciously move away from old ways of thinking about social services that date from the welfare state era, and adopt new ways of thinking.

The Covid-19 crisis and its economic fallout has made us even more determined to pursue a community- and people-led approach to issues ranging from the health and welfare of babies and young mothers to food security and financial stability.

This approach does not replace the need for social services.  But if we are smart and learn from the recent experience and have the courage to risk new approaches, then operating from a community- and  person- led approach has the potential to both modify how we deliver many social services and release new initiatives that reduce the pressure on more intensive social service programmes. 

There will always be a crucial role for government leadership to address structural inequities.  But to act for communities without understanding their ability and desire to develop their own solutions, creates a raft of unintended consequences.

Communities have once again proven their trustworthiness and ability in a crisis. Government agencies, community organisations, iwi / hāpu, and businesses have proven their adaptability.  It’s a perfect combination that will let us shift from trying to ‘fix people’ to instead supporting the innovation and abilities they already have to build new equitable economic and social infrastructure. This approach will make our limited dollars go further and it will enhance well-being in all our communities.

Good Cents makes good sense for Rose’s financial wellbeing

A year ago Rose Nair was hundreds of dollars in debt and her bank account was always in overdraft. Now, thanks to the changes she has made after attending our peer-led financial well-being course, Good Cents, the sole parent from Porirua East is debt-free and saving $190 a week. “Before I was frightened of money but now I feel really empowered. I know where every cent is going and I’m really happy that money is sitting in my account.” The 8-week Good Cents course is not a traditional budgeting course where a professional budget advisor tells people what to do. Instead, Good Cents participants lead their own journey, taking ownership and control of their finances and supporting each other to identify and  make the changes that work for them.

"Before I was frightened of money ..but now I feel really empowered."

For Rose, one of the key aspects of the course was the support and encouragement she got from the others in the group. “We all came from different backgrounds, but what we had in common is we wanted to know where our money was going,” she says. “It was really helpful to talk it through with other people who were having the same issues.” The group came up with some really useful tips about how she could save money on food, including buying $60 meat packs from The Mad Butcher instead of buying her meat at the supermarket. She also joined the Porirua Fruit and Vege Coop,  which means she gets a great selection of fresh produce for just $12 a week. “My kids really love the carrots – they eat them before I’ve even had time to cook them!” Even more importantly, support from the group gave her the courage to have some difficult, money-related conversations with whānau members. The first was with her older son who had moved in with his partner but was not contributing anything towards the household costs. Encouraged by the others in the group, she asked him to leave which has made a big difference to her financial situation. The group members also encouraged her to talk to her extended whānau about how much she could realistically contribute to family funeral costs. “We’ve now agreed that we will  contribute what we can afford.” Rose also used her new-found confidence to ring up her power and internet provider to find out why she always seemed to be in debt to them. It turned out that she was misreading her bills and, rather than being in debt, the company owed her $1005. That unexpected windfall allowed her to clear her debts. Rose has now stopped smoking which saves her about $65 a week. More recently she joined the Porirua Wealth Pool based at Wesley Cannons Creek. It’s a savings pool, where members pool their savings which can then be used to provide interest-free loans. She contributes $40 a week to the wealth pool, and saves another $150 a week into her own account. It means she’s been able to do things such as replace her ancient microwave and she hopes to eventually buy a car. “I thought I was on a dead-end street, I couldn’t save a thing,” she says. “But now me and my kids are celebrating the fact that our money lasts the whole week and we’re also saving. I can give them pocket money and if they want to go and hang with friends I can give them $20 to go and do that.” We run Good Cents courses regularly through the year. Contact Wesley House in Cannons Creek to find out more: 04 237 7923  or wesleyhouse@wesleyca.org.nz.