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.”