Nurturing trust up for award
Te Whangai Charitable Trust’s experience in giving long-term unemployed a chance to rebuild their lives has been recognised again with a finalist spot in the 2012 Sustainable Business Network’s Social Innovation Awards.
The trust, which was a finalist in the 2009 Trailblazer Not for Profit Awards and won the Waikato not for profit and Trail blazer Awards in 2010, runs an eco-nursery growing native trees and plants, staffed by people who find it difficult to get into the labour market.
It offers jobs and skills training to people in the South Auckland, Waikato and ThamesCoromandel areas who have been unemployed for more than a year or are disadvantaged because of illness or circumstances.
Te Whangai is Maori for ‘‘to nurture, adopt or nourish,’’ with nurturing the basis of the training and support.
‘‘Our society has failed to provide opportunities for those caught in a poverty trap,’’ says Adrienne Dalton who with her husband Gary developed the trust from scratch on their dairy farm five years ago, initially securing funding from the Social Development Ministry as well as using their own money.
She says the trust is swamped at employment expos by people wanting a chance to get on its schemes, which pay $100 a week more than the unemployment benefit for 30 hours work a week. Unfortunately this scheme has been replaced by Flexi-Wage with reduced assistance.
‘‘Their day starts at 7.30am and finishes at 3.30pm four days a week, on the fifth day we offer training for job hunting, personal skills or anything else that helps our workers, and we hire specialist trainers for this.’’
At the moment the trust needs workers for a new nursery and environmental partnership with a large company in Waiuku but is struggling to find enough drug-free workers for its first team.
‘‘All our new workers are drug and alcoholtested before they begin their placements,’’ says manager John Walter. ‘‘And we work with Community Alcohol and Drug Services to evaluate their needs for education and counselling.’’
‘‘But for our new Waiuku Corporate partnership we need workers who are drug-free from day one.’’
The Waiuku development is an enormous opportunity for the trust to expand its services throughout the Auckland and Waikato areas where it knows there is a huge need among the long-term unemployed as well as those with criminal records.
‘‘So many of our youth are disenfranchised,’’ Gary Dalton says. ‘‘ We need to be able to understand the real issues of poverty and the depression it often brings, what we do here works because we walk alongside them, it’s hand- ups, not handouts,’’ Gary says.
‘‘It is about people, not money, it’s about changing our community. People complain about welfare payments but nobody is prepared to do anything about it.
‘‘The people here have designed and built our facilities, they’ve used skills that haven’t been recognised. It’s not their disadvantages that are the problem, it’s our inability to harness their abilities.’’
John says: ‘‘Our guys take a huge sense of achievement in what they do. They want to be able to show their mokopuna in 50 years time what they’ve raised and planted, to be able watch plants come up from seed into big trees.’’
The awards ceremony takes place on November 22 at The Cloud, Queens Wharf, Auckland.