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Porirua team adjusts to families’ changing needs

Perched atop a steep driveway above a busy intersection at Cannons Creek shopping centre sits a house that looks little different than others in the neighbourhood. Rather than a family, however, it houses the team of workers who run the Porirua arm of Wesley Community Action.

Wesley Porirua provides a ‘wrap around’ group of services to local people. These include family and youth support programmes, counselling, a foodbank, and advocacy.

Co-ordinator Martina Cziharz says many of those Wesley Porirua serves initially visit to use the foodbank. They then learn about the other services the centre offers.

Those on the staff include two youth workers, Donald Hunter and Leona Tiraa, and a family/whanau worker, Lorraine Tetley. The family worker helps families assess their situation and pursue services they need, while the youth workers provide mentoring to individuals and develop programmes to run in schools.

“Porirua is a tight knit community. It is a state housing area but people love living here. Many have lived here for two or three generations and are proud of their community. All our workers are from the community.”

Porirua is multicultural city and Martina says about a third of the people Wesley Porirua work with are Pakeha, a third are Maori and a third are Pacific.

The flexible approach Wesley Community Action takes to its programmes means it can develop new initiatives to address the changing needs of the community.

“We develop programmes as the need comes up. At one point, several of our families had people driving without licenses so we ran a driving theory course to help them get their licenses. We have also held budget cooking classes so people would know what to do with the food in the parcels from the foodbank.

“More recently we have been running programmes through the government’s SKIP programme [Strategies with Kids, Information for Parents]. These include peer support groups for families with young children. Parents from those groups wanted practical things they could do with their kids so we are running a gardening course for them. I imagine in future we may run a course on bottling so people can preserve the things they grow in their gardens.”

Martina says many of the teenagers who receive help from Wesley Porirua are sent there by their families. Often the parents or siblings come to the centre for some other purpose and then learn about the services it offers young people. Schools also refer students they who have identified with particular needs, such as anger or body image.

“We can provide one-to-one mentoring and support young people into training programmes. If we don’t have the capacity to help a young person or family, we can refer them on to other agencies. For example, we don’t do budgeting but we are happy to refer people to groups that do.

“Because Maori and Pacific Island families tend to look after their old people in the home, there is less need to support older people here than in other communities. If the need arises, however, we can refer people to WesleyCare.”

Tawa Union Parish is a staunch supporter of Wesley Porirua, providing food for the foodbank from its weekly collection.