Friday, 16 November 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Whitianga Social Services really needs help

Whitianga Social Services really needs help

Earlier this year a lack of funding saw Whitianga Social Services scaling their days of operation down from five to four per week. All staff members are receiving one day a week less income, but continue to provide volunteer hours back to the community.  Now Social Services is facing a further blow and really have to look to the community for some help.
“We fund our Youth Space in Cook Drive with lottery grants from the Department of Internal Affairs,” said Social Services manager, Jenny Wolf. “The grants are pretty much routine and we expected our next round of funds to have been available by June this year. But late last week we became aware that the funding round dates for 2014 have changed. The new dates mean we’ll only now received funds from the DIA in November. It will cost $28,500 to keep our Youth Space doors open until then. It’s money we clearly don’t have.”
The Social Services Youth Space is a success story. The space opened late last year in answer to a desire from many Mercury Bay young people for a place to hang out after school. The space is staffed by qualified social and youth workers and community volunteers. It’s a place where young people can go to do their homework, play pool and other games, learn new skills and catch up with friends. Kayaking was on the agenda during summer for Wednesday afternoons and funding was obtained to host cooking classes earlier this year. Friday night activities became a regular feature. Recently 16 girls attended a girls night where the opportunity to watch a movie was turned down in favour of pampering and just talking.
The space has strict ground rules. No drugs or alcohol, always adult supervision and only young people of similar age attending.
The Accident Compensation Corporation agreed to fund the space to host some larger events. So, May will see a family Amazing Race to coincide with the formal opening of the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park and a “spook night” will be held during Halloween. The space will partner with Creative Mercury Bay to host the Mercury Bay Blast in December and a big youth concert is planned at the Whitianga Bike Park for March next year.
ACC has also agreed to fund a short film making competition with alcohol awareness and safety as a theme. A Samsung tablet is up for grabs and the best still image from all the entries will go up on a billboard to be erected next to the Social Services offices further down Cook Drive.
The biggest impact the space has is on the lives of young people. The staff members are always happy to listen to and provide advice on the many complex issues our young people face, often not of their own doing.
There’s the story of a boy turning up at the space, intending to get drunk somewhere else in town later that day. After a while, he felt comfortable to confide in one of the staff members. He didn’t get drunk and is now a regular at the space. There’s also the story of a girl who felt unsafe around a particular adult. She chose to go to the Youth Space one Friday evening. She’s a regular now too. The space is a place where she feels safe and where there are adult and skilled people she can talk to. And there’s a girl with a disability causing social awkwardness.
Jenny and her team gradually introduced her to the Youth Space and she’s now comfortably interacting with others wherever she goes.
All this, alas, may come to an end. Social Services needs $5,700 a month to keep the Youth Space going until November. Jenny and her team are knocking on all the doors they can think of, but, in case they don’t get any answer, wonder if there are any members or groups of the Mercury Bay community willing to champion their cause.
They will consider anything, donations (obviously), fundraising help and ideas, introductions to people who may help or introductions to people who know people who may help. 
If you want to live in a community where young people have somewhere to go to for some quality time after school, where they have someone who can help them to deal with their issues and where good things are happening and are bound to continue to happen, give Jenny a call - (07) 866 4476.
A healthy society is a lasting legacy. You may just have now the opportunity to have a part in that - right here in Mercury Bay.

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