By Suzanne Hanson
Fleur and Paul Clayton, the owners and proprietors of Smitty’s Sports Bar and Grill in Whitianga are passionate about a very local cause. The couple moved to the Mercury Bay six years ago with their youngest son Kieran, who is special needs, (now 21) and Jamie who is now 23. Although the family immediately found the community friendly and helpful, they also found that there was little, if no local, support or outlets for learning and development for Kieran once he left school.
They reached out to other parents in the area with special needs young adults, and they found that due to our very small catchment area, others were in the same situation. Kieran and the wider special needs community in the Bay are given funding and support nationally, but there is a vacuum locally for resources to use this funding to continue to provide these young adults with opportunities to learn, develop, get work experience, and be actively engaged outside the home. Paul and Fleur have taken the issue head-on and have set up the Te Tiihi Nui Trust to fi ll this void with local resources. The Te Tiihi Nui Trust, a locally based and registered charitable trust, will provide the operations, logistics and carers to provide bespoke opportunities for our special needs community in the Mercury Bay. The focus of the Trust is to provide these individuals with a more meaningful life through employment opportunities, outlets for learning and development, small business opportunities and engagement in the wider community. A result of such out of home experiences will also be to provide the parents with some degree of respite. As Paul adds, the Trust is about the “Long Game” with a mission of getting these individuals to be adults who are independent enough to find long-term living in the community.
The Te Tiihi Nui Trust is modelling itself somewhat on the Taimahi Trust in Northland, established in 2008 by Rachel Hill who initially established a coffee cart start-up so her disabled son could have meaningful work. The Taimahi Trust has since expanded building micro enterprises that create long term employment opportunities, foster real-life work skills and enable independence. It is about giving each youngster customised life experiences to grow their skills and talents and maybe even earn a little money. It is also about engagement to connect. Through establishing the Trust, Paul and Fleur are hoping to recruit local businesses, organisations and volunteers who can provide opportunities for our special needs individuals. They enthusiastically point out some local organisations who already offer such experiences to Kieran. As a result of Kieran’s development at the Mercury Bay Area School and these work experiences, he has thrived in Whitianga and loves this community where so many people know him and include him. Fleur adds that Kieran loves to be involved and Is always off ering to help, even if he requires a little extra support.
The Te Tiihi Nui Trust will be providing the coordination of such opportunities as well as the carers and logistics needed to support organisations who want to be involved. The Trust will also look for ideas and opportunities to establish micro enterprises here in the Mercury Bay. The bottom line is each special needs individual in our community has very unique abilities and talents. The Te Tiihi Nui Trust is setting out to fi nd job or life experiences, supported by carers as needed, to give these individuals the self-esteem and skills to move into adulthood.
If you would like to help out, or want more information on Te Tiihi Nui Trust please contact Fleur Clayton at Smitty’s: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kieran Clayton following his recent graduation ceremony at Stoked Restaurant