The Christchurch NGO focus
There is a lot of discussion in the lead up to the Council’s new budget plan for 2020/2021 on where valuable ratepayer dollars are invested, with the usual focus on roading, water, and facilities. However, we’re fortunate enough to live in a city where the council not only invests in physical infrastructure, but sees the value of investing in social infrastructure too.
Included in the budget plan is a proposal for an additional $360,000 contribution to non-government organisations (NGOs).
NGOs have traditionally kept relatively quiet about the impact they have for communities, but they have a huge part to play when it comes to creating a thriving, healthy environment to call home.
They may be best known for meeting the needs of the poor, but the Christchurch NGO network is also in the business of community development, which supports a diverse range of people – rich and poor, young and old, all ethnicities.
“We develop networks and relationships, support schools and working parents, we cut the toenails of people who can no longer reach them, and teach English to students,” says Jess Lyons, Communications Manager of the Neighbourhood Trust. “We are resilient to adapting to emerging needs, and we operate on small budgets with the help of an army of volunteers who give their time generously to help others. People bring us joy, and we are energised by seeing potential realised and saddened when we see it wasted. We work hard and willingly go the extra mile over and above our job description in response to a phone call to help someone.”
Each NGO in Christchurch has their own focus and flavour, with talented groups of workers to build up individuals and help them reach their potential as whanau members, employees and Christchurch citizens.
“The whole role of NGOs is rather than trying to do everything for everyone, is actually trying to connect other people with other people and support them to places of belonging, and get them stuff that’s going to support their health and wellbeing,” says CEO of Te Ora Hou Ōtautahi, Jono Campbell. “People bring out the good in each other.”
When NGOs are faced with challenges, like the Covid-19 crisis, instead of backing off and enjoying a break, they go full steam ahead and come up with new and creative ways to support their people.
NGO flexibility during a crisis
With NGOs constantly adjusting services to meet the needs of the communities they serve, and being allocated different amounts of funding each year, being flexible is in their nature.
“Part of our strategic plan has to be flexible,” says Jono Campbell. “We can’t have a five year rigid, prescriptive plan because that’s not how people work, that’s not how communities work.
Events like Covid-19 highlights the need for localised response, of community hubs and people who know their communities really well and have a local presence.”
Keeping connected with youth
Rebecca Phillips, Operations Manager of NGO, Te Ora Hou Ōtautahi, describes the importance of staying connected with their contacts over the Covid-19 isolation period.
Communicating online with rangatahi was a big focus for Te Ora Hou. “We wanted to help rangatahi connect together so they knew they still had a place to belong, to help ensure they had a voice, and know they mattered even as the world went a little crazy around them,” says Rebecca.
“One highlight over lockdown was the LIVE youth engagement event, Oh No, It’s Te Ora Hou (named by the rangatahi themselves), which ran every week on Friday for seven weeks on Facebook. This regular event was open to any young person who chose to engage, and it gave them an opportunity to directly connect with one another and youth workers; to have a voice about what was happening to them, and explore the impact of Covid-19.
It provided a forum for in-depth conversations about important kaupapa to our rangatahi such as love and relationships, habits, and kai.”
Te Ora Hou aired seven episodes of Oh No, It’s Te Ora Hou, with a forum of five youth workers and 12 youth panel participants across the series. The programme reached 1400 people per episode across New Zealand.
Rebecca says that what people loved about it was that it was one of the few youth-led online engagement activities over the lockdown period. “The content was unedited, unfiltered, raw and real – a glance through the eyes of the young people of Aotearoa.”
Some of the youth involved in the Facebook programme had this to say about it:
“Te Ora Hou has taught me a lot, and has helped me with growing into a better person.”
“Love and appreciate this group and the new friendships I’ve found.”
“I’m proud to part of a family that puts others first and cares so much about the lives of others. I hope I can be involved in this programme for many years to come; thank you again for giving my (sic) this opportunity guys.”
NGO Papanui Youth Development Trust PYDT also focus on engaging with youth, encouraging social connections and helping them to take the lead in running peer group activities.
“As we drew near to the beginning of the Covid-19 Lockdown, we pivoted the focus of the Papanui Youth Advisory Committee (PAC) group to create a framework for producing content to engage the young people of our area and inspire them to stay connected and to keep positive in such a turbulent time,” says PYDT Creative Arts & Technologies Coordinator, Tom Linklater.
“The types of content we have been producing include daily quizzes, regular inspiring quote posts, creativity contests, and weekly Zoom hangouts.
With the use of technologies such as Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, and various simple online games, we have been able to build and sustain a great connection with the young people in our area while giving the PAC committee a cause they can be part of.”
PAC committee member and regular PYDT Volunteer, Abby felt that the PYDT Instagram page was a source of positivity and connection during the physically isolating time in lockdown. “Along with a team of young people, I have been using the PYDT Instagram to engage with other people our age and spread positivity during a time that is hard on everyone. I find being a part of this group and spreading the positivity has helped me be more positive around the situation too!”
Emergency Kai Boxes
As well as staying connected virtually over lockdown, NGOs who run foodbanks were classed as essential services so were able to support whanau in the community with fresh produce, this was especially valuable to over 65’s who were isolated and without other support networks.
Mark Hudson, Manager of Community Focus Trust, says “The main impact of this initiative was that we saw families and individuals getting not only essential food into their homes, but that they had some connection and could share what they were going through, which helped their overall well-being. This impact was seen especially during the Level 4 lockdown, as many could not leave their homes or for those alone, this was their only connection during this time.
We saw our operation increase by 200% since pre COVID-19, which has continued to be the case as we work families during this period.”
Lynda Goodrick, General Manager of Belfast Community Network says that their NGO’s main way of staying in touch with people was also through support package deliveries.
“The Belfast Community Network (BCN) delivered 200 support bags to those isolated in the community during the Covid-19 lockdown,” says Lynda. “The delivery from three of our team each week, ensured that someone was staying in touch with our local residents. This was a new initiative for our organisation and was made possible by the availability of the Government Community subsidy.”
Resident, Marie Ellery (pictured) said “Thank you so much for what you did for us in lockdown. You don’t know how much I looked forward to Thursday and a friendly face and a bag of treats that would last until the next delivery”.
Lynda said “Our strong community links in Belfast ensured that our organisation was able to link the many resources that were being offered to our organisation. We assisted with the Rotary Club of Belfast Kaiapoi providing funds and produce to our local foodbank, set up grocery deliveries through the Student Volunteer Army, sourced whanau who needed extra support and provided one off shopping for elderly residents who couldn’t manage any of the external services and just needed someone they knew to help them. Our communication and links are strong within our community due to the way in which our organisation has been set up, and of course Christchurch communities have been through a lot, we know how to support, help and be kind.”
Adapting services to meet needs in a post-Covid environment
NGOs are already in the process of pivoting their services and strategies to better help the increasing number of people in need in their communities. This is particularly prevalent in areas of increased unemployment due to Covid-19 lockdown financial impacts.
“Post-Covid the biggest concerns we hear about seems to be job security,” says André Esterhuizen, Trust Manager, Northgate Community Services Trust. “With the uncertainty that we are facing in coming months our efforts are currently focussed on streamlining our systems and ensuring we can work together as a team more effectively so that we can be more responsive in the ‘bad times’.
Whilst a raft of socio-economic issues surfaces when people lose their jobs, we as a Trust are likely to focus on the most basic and urgent needs like food, clothing and housing.”
Some NGOs are currently in the process of establishing new services and premises to meet the needs of their community.
“Already we’re seeing that push towards more employment-based services,” says Jono Campbell.
Since the lockdown lifted, The Neighbourhood Trust has been in the process of setting up a community hub, The Whanau Centre, in response to increased need for physical and social support in Mairehau.
“The Whanau Centre provides a physical presence for the Neighbourhood Trust to operate in the heart of Mairehau, which has seen an increased need for community connection since the lockdown,” says Neighbourhood Trust Community Development Worker, Don Benn. “Accessibility is a big factor for people needing some help, and the Whanau Centre will make it easier for Mairehau families to reach. Council funding has enabled this to happen, which we are immensely grateful for.
Covid-19 has really accentuated the need for community connection. Loss of jobs and loss of hours of work, mean that people are needing extra support at this time. Although we are at Level 1 again, the ongoing effects last longer, so the Whanau Centre is in an ideal location to offer that support.
With support from the Council we are able to provide services such as food packages for those impacted by the lockdown; a planned gardening project to help families be more in control of fresh fruit and vegetable production; a drop-in centre where people can simply chat and feel that burdens are shared, and potentially be referred to places where they find additional more specific help.
We’d love to see an opportunity for driver licensing classes to occur as well as work-ready skills like preparing CVs, interviewing skills and dressing for interviews.
Families who need some additional help can get a hand with some groceries or some fresh fruit and vegetables. They can also talk to myself and other community workers about other help that might be available.
During difficult times the way that people rally together leads to a more sustainably connected community.”
“Every day we ask, how can we do things better? What’s working? What’s not working?” says Jono Campbell. “One thing that we can and need to start doing more of, is have NGOs’ role become more like the facilitators, rather than solely service providers. Those are the things that I think really work well. Because you can have a whole lot of really good, capable people not being utilised – so how do we support them to be useful and feel valued?”
The North West Collective is a group of nine Christchurch community organisations that provide services and programmes to their communities. We are committed to working together to strengthen our communities and aim to be both caring and professional as we partner with our communities.
NGOs involved in the North West Collective are: Belfast Community Network Inc, Bishopdale Community Trust, Community Focus Trust, Neighbourhood Trust, Northgate Community Services Trust, Papanui Baptist Freedom Trust, Papanui Youth Development Trust, Shirley Community Trust, Te Ora Hou.