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According to Deirdre Ryan, “passion, connection and community” are the key factors that have kept Community Wellbeing North Canterbury Trust thriving for 30 years.
“Community is at the heart of everything we do,” explains Deirdre, who is the Manager of the Trust. “Our team of staff and volunteers are driven by a passion to do what it takes to support our community to strengthen their wellbeing.”
The Trust, which started out as a single community worker in Kaiapoi in 1988, has grown significantly in the past 30 years and now provides a huge range of free support services across the Hurunui and Waimakariri districts including community youth workers, family counselling services, youth drug and alcohol services, school attendance, restorative justice, social workers, a community pantry, a volunteer driver’s scheme, and the Karanga Mai Early Learning Centre for the children of young parents. The Trust’s staff numbers 38 paid professionals and nearly 100 volunteers.
“It is sometimes hard for people to imagine that there are people who need our services out here in such a beautiful setting as North Canterbury, but they do, and they come from all lifestyles and occupations,” explains Deirdre.
“The key driver for the Trust to be established all those years ago was to support people who – for all kinds of reasons – were struggling to meet daily challenges. The same motivation remains today.”
In recent years, the increased cost of living, periods of drought and the significant earthquakes have all contributed to the region’s population requiring the Trust’s services.
“More people across all ages are having a hard time with anxiety, stress and depression. Social isolation and loneliness is another trend we are noticing,” says Deirdre
In the 2017/2018 financial year, Trust staff members travelled twice as many kilometres to supply their services as they did the year before, covering 100,000kms across the North Canterbury region. They also gave out 580 food parcels, helped almost 3,000 clients and their families and generated 8,694 volunteer hours.
2018 also saw the Trust win the PAK'nSAVE Rangiora Community Enterprise Award at the North Canterbury Business Awards. They were successful at the 2016 Awards, too, where they won the Professional and Technical Services Award, and a few years back their Karanga Mai Early Learning Centre received a Prime Minister’s Excellence Award for collaboration and innovation.
“We are very excited and proud to gain recognition through these awards,” explains Deirdre. “It does help to raise our profile so that people know about who we are, what we do and how we can help them.”
However, Deirdre says the Trust’s services are “over-subscribed”, with a waiting list. As a charity, it is an ongoing struggle to fund and provide resources that meet everybody’s needs in a timely manner.
“We operate like a business, but our profit is how we improve people’s lives in North Canterbury. However, while we do receive funding through Government contracts and the like, the amount we receive does not meet the actual service delivery costs.”
The support of local businesses is key, says Deirdre.
“An incredibly unique aspect of our Trust is that we provide services for our local community. If local businesses can really get behind the Trust, everyone wins. We can better respond to local needs in a way that is practical and relevant.
“In 2018 we have launched the new ‘Take an Hour for Wellbeing’ initiative. Our dream is for every business in North Canterbury to take part in this, or to give an annual donation towards our services. In return, we can make sure we are available for business owners, their staff and families when they need a bit of a hand up, as we all do from time to time.
“Community Wellbeing North Canterbury Trust is a unique treasure that has been right here in our North Canterbury community for 30 years, helping thousands of people. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all do something to make sure that the work we do sustains us well beyond the next 30 years in strengthening wellbeing for everyone?”
For more information on the Trust visit https://wellbeingnc.org.nz.
For more on the Take an Hour for Wellbeing initiative, click here.