By Pauline Stewart
Over 35 people attended the Community networking morning on Wednesday 9 November at Whitianga Social Services Centre (WSSC) in Cook Street, Whitianga.
Everyone who came was involved at a professional level in some form of social, educational, or medical service, aimed at strengthening community connections and assisting people with their needs in a variety of areas - the lives of families, children, young people and the elderly were referred to as each person introduced themselves, their name, their job, their passion and the issues they dealt with in their work.
St John’s representative (Hato Hone), spoke about the Ambulance Support Scheme for households and the free hospital shuttle service; Sally Christie from Hauraki Family Violence Unit addressed the hui on her awareness raising work with local communities across Hauraki and the Coromandel Peninsula. Kathy Archibald from the Right2BSafe Campaign, had engaged Whitianga Social Services to assist Mercury Bay to have its own awareness raising programme of how to protect children from sexual abuse.
Mercury Bay Area school was represented by their school nurse - Shaz Isei, the school psychotherapist - Nicky Pretorius, school counsellor - Carolyn Gibbs and the Principal - John Wright. John briefly referred to their MBAS community of 104 staff and 1,000 students, plus the families of all the teachers and students, and the social needs of that large community. He raised a point of interest regarding the general data collected over the period from when a child starts at their school at five years old, to when that emerging adult leaves after Year 13. It is a fact that hardly any aspect of our society provides children with that longevity of one stable educational environment with all the stages of growth and milestones that occur in 13 years. MBAS is in a unique and advantageous position to really know its community and the data they have in relation to education is very important. John also referred to an interesting statistic – “the school provides breakfast and lunches for 60-80 students.”
John concluded, “The voice that is not represented here,( referring to the Hui and to his work at the school) is at the Ministry level. There are strands of the Ministry with which we simply fail to connect.”
An organisation that I had not known, but whose representatives described their purpose and programmes, was ‘Pacifico - achieving peaceful minds’. This was a relatively new organisation in Mercury Bay, comprising a social worker, psychologist, registered nurse, counsellor, all working with trauma and mental health from GP referrals and also, private citizen - initiated appointments.
Sheryll Fitzpatrick, Manager of the Whitianga Social Services and Host of the community hui along with her team, provided participants with a generous meal and time for people to exchange names and information. In concluding the morning, Sheryll spoke of a programme highlight in which she is personally involved at the Social Services Centre, and that was assisting young people through all the steps to get their NZ Drivers Licences.
This time at the community gathering was very encouraging and heartening; Mercury Bay area has many skilled and committed professionals and volunteers personally motivated to strengthen human connection and enable people of all ages to live well and get help when it is needed. The social service hub that WSSC is, in many ways, leading that network of services.
Caption: Community Hui participants: L to R - Stacey Gaskell - Senior and Events Coordinator, Sheryll Fitzpatrick - Manager of Whitianga Social Services, Lorraine MacAllister - Mercury Bay Medical Centre, Diane Taylor - St Johns Paramedic and Social Worker.