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Passion for people - Ministry of Social Development

By Dolores Arnold,2014-07-16 08:36
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Passion for people - Ministry of Social Development

Contents

    A life worth leading ............................................................................................. 3 The will for change ............................................................................................. 6 Dream the impossible ......................................................................................... 8 Manurewa parenting hub.................................................................................. 12 Opportunities, not obstacles............................................................................. 16 Getting dad on board ....................................................................................... 18 Poster dads ...................................................................................................... 21 Joining forces ................................................................................................... 24 Never, ever shake a baby ................................................................................ 26 Northern ........................................................................................................... 28 Southern ........................................................................................................... 34 Regional round-up............................................................................................ 39 Tips and links ................................................................................................... 43 Rise Issue 18 March 2012 1

    Welcome to the March 2012 issue of Rise.

    Connection is about strong relationships and working

    together. Whether we are talking about people or

    organisations, it’s about sharing support and strength;

    spreading ideas and knowledge. Strong collaborative

    connections can be the difference between success or

    not.

    This issue of Rise tells the story of opera singer Phillip

    Rhodes. As a boy, the support of loving foster parents

    helped Phillip move beyond a childhood of abuse and

    connect with his incredible potential as a singer.

    Also in this issue, the Prime Minister‟s Youth Programme recognises kids who are making

    something of their lives even though the odds are against them. It connects them with support and opportunities to reach their potential. Eighteen-year-old Sione Feao talks about the importance of that connection as he grows into a youth leader and trains to make it into the Warriors under-20 side.

    Connection is what communities are about. The Manurewa Parenting Hub connects isolated and struggling parents with their children‟s schools and learning, with each other and with

    opportunities to grow as parents and individuals. In this issue, parents describe how they have gained a new sense of community, purpose and belonging. Not to mention jobs and happier homes.

    It‟s great to welcome Murray Edridge as the new head of Family and Community Services

    the arm of the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) which supports community social service organisations and programmes. As the former chief executive of Barnardos New Zealand, Murray has dedicated his working life to better lives for children and families. His passion and insight into the challenges of the not-for-profit sector will be a great asset to MSD and the wider social sector as we join forces towards the same goals. Naku te rourou, nau te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi

    With your basket and my basket the people will live

    When we join together our resources, people will prosper.

    Brendan Boyle

    Chief Executive, Ministry of Social Development

    Rise Issue 18 March 2012 2

A life worth leading

    Sione Feao is very tall, but he says that he will never

    look down on someone unless it is to help them up.

    If he had not had the chance to learn that he was more

    than just a guy who followed the pack, 18-year-old

    Sione isn‟t sure where he‟d be right now.

    But he knows where he wouldn‟t be.

    He probably wouldn‟t have been in the Otahuhu College

    team that won last year‟s national secondary schools

    rugby league championship, breaking St Pauls‟ seven-

    year hold on the trophy.

    He probably wouldn‟t have been named to play in the

    championship tournament team against Australia in

    October 2011.

    And he would probably not have spent this summer in pre-season training for the Warriors under-20 side.

    People say the tall, rangy second-rower has what it takes to go a long way in rugby league. Sione‟s goal is to prove them right.

    Sione also would not have been one of the first young people to be invited for a second time on the annual Prime Minister‟s Youth Programme – this time not as a participant, but

    as a leader.

    The Prime Ministers Youth Programme

    The Prime Minister‟s Youth Programme is run each year for 100 exceptional young

    Aucklanders. They are nominated by schools, youth workers, police or social workers for their determination to make positive changes and good choices, even though they‟ve had challenges to overcome.

    In January, four youth-focused organisations run a week of fantastic activities for the young people, from training with the Warriors to white water rafting and lugeing. Youth workers then stay in touch with the young people, mentoring them for months after the initial week ends.

    Top sportspeople, musicians, dancers, actors and other artists also share their time, creating a chance for the young people to meet their heroes and role models. One of the organisations involved in the Prime Minister‟s Youth Programme is the Village

    Community Trust, founded by All Black legend Michael Jones and managed by his wife, Maliena.

    Maliena says amazing bonds form between the young people and the youth workers during Rise Issue 18 March 2012 3

the week of activities.

    “The youth workers get alongside them, get to know them and understand where they are

    from. That‟s the strength of the program, the amazing staff from all the providers who are passionate about working with these young people.”

    After the first week, ongoing mentoring is crucial, she says.

    “The kids made some really positive changes on their own, and the point is to acknowledge that achievement and then encourage them to keep on that vein.

    “They come from good families, most of them. Some have had real hardships. A lot are extremely shy and not the type to seek more for themselves. And many of them are natural leaders who just don‟t realise how much they can be.”

    From follower to leader

    It was police youth aid officer Mark Faga who nominated Sione for the 2011 Prime Minister‟s Youth Programme. Mark first came across Sione hanging out on the street with a pack of other teenagers. He told them about Bluelight mentoring sessions, offering boxing training at the local BoxFit gym.

    “It was free,” says Sione. “Once he said „free‟, I was like, oh yeah!”

    Sione and his mates started coming along to the sessions two nights a week. The others dropped out after a while, but Sione carried on, making new friends and enjoying the discipline of boxing and the values of hard work and healthy living that went along with it. “That police officer, Mark, he helped me a lot, talking about his life and how he became a cop. He taught me a lot.”

    Sione says up until that point he‟d always been a follower.

    The eldest in a large Pacific Island family, he spent a lot of time “looking after the kids” or

    hanging out with a pack of guys, doing just what they did.

    Playing computer games passed the time. It wasn‟t until he was fourteen and becoming

    very tall that he decided to try rugby league, a sport his father had been passionate about. “It was way too late to start. Everyone had already developed and learned everything and I was the worst. I couldn‟t even catch a ball. That year we lost every game. There was one game we were going to win and then I dropped the ball and the other team scored. I just kept hearing people saying „Oh this guy is useless.‟

    “Mum, she saw it all, but she just kept saying „next week son, next week‟.”

    Sione didn‟t quit.

    “The one thing that mattered to me the most was just everyone looking down at me. Now I

    say to myself I shall only look down at someone if I am helping them up.”

    Rise Issue 18 March 2012 4

    That quality may well be one reason Sione was chosen not only for the 2011 Prime Minister‟s Youth Programme, but to return as a leader in this year‟s programme.

    “I want to be that guy that helps the young guys be the leaders. Danny (the Village Trust‟s youth mentor manager) works that way. He puts us forward and gives us the opportunity to step up.”

    Over the past year, that kind of mentoring has seen Sione gain confidence in his leadership. He‟s learned about setting goals, working hard for them and not giving up.

    Sione is just one of many young hopefuls for the Warriors, and he knows how hard he has to work both physically and mentally to make it.

    “There‟s that 1 per cent chance of success, so even if it‟s 99 per cent fail I just got to try for the 1 per cent. And then try again. Cos if you fail, you get stronger.”

    His advice to other young guys wondering where to go in their lives is to hang out with the kind of people you want to become. “Cos it is twice as hard to stand up to your mates as your enemies. Be your true self and friends will come to you.”

    By the time this magazine goes to print, Sione will have found out whether he has made it on to the Warriors squad. If that doesn‟t work out this time, he has learned not to give up. He also intends to stay involved with the Village Trust.

    “I‟d like to be involved with youth who are in trouble,” he says. “Cos everyone deserves a chance.”

    Rise Issue 18 March 2012 5

The will for change

    Child and family lawyer Sandra Alofivae has been immersed in

    community discussions on the Green Paper for Vulnerable

    Children about how we can do better for abused and

    disadvantaged children.

    You‟ve been working with communities across the country,

    hearing their views and encouraging them to have their

    say. What stood out?

    The public want change. In fact, they are ready for change in

    quite a controversial way. I was surprised by how few skeptics I

    met. That‟s not to say they are not out there I am sure they

    are. But, as I explained in every meeting, one of the defining

    features about this process is that Minister Bennett has made it very clear that NOTHING has been decided yet. She wanted to have this honest dialogue with the New Zealand public, because the change that will follow is going to affect everyone directly or indirectly. This is not just about now. This is something to take us into the future to protect future generations.

    What have people been saying?

    At every meeting, people said we need stronger and better collaboration between sectors and agencies. Also, most communities agreed that agencies should share more information with each other. One comment from Whangarei was: “Aren‟t you doing that now? Well, why not? Don‟t hold back our babies are dying.”

    People supported the idea of reviewing existing programmes so that we don‟t fund things that don‟t deliver results. Many people agreed that if programmes are not working we should be trying new ways.

    Others voiced the need for government to connect with families by engaging more closely with churches and community leaders.

    However, there were also differences. For example, in Whangarei unemployment is a harsh reality for the region. The sense of hopelessness that accompanied being out of work led to a loss of mana and dignity for many people. Unemployment was considered the real crux of the matter for families and children.

    In Christchurch I met many organisations galvanized to work together in a way they hadn‟t done in the past a direct result of the earthquakes. The outpouring of community spirit to make a real and practical difference was overwhelming.

    Among Pacific communities there was a real conflict about focusing on the child outside the context of their family. The view is that if the child is vulnerable it‟s because the family is

    vulnerable you can‟t help one without helping the other. This view was similar to views shared by many Maori communities.

    Do you feel hopeful about making a difference?

    Rise Issue 18 March 2012 6

    Very hopeful. To get a different result we need to do things differently. This is why I was prepared to stand up and help promote this conversation.

    Personally I found the experience both heartening and disheartening. Heartening in that it was so rewarding to meet people around the nation who work tirelessly with vulnerable children and families. Disheartening to realise how much money goes into different sectors to achieve results and yet we still haven‟t managed to get it right. At every meeting the need for better and stronger cross-sector collaboration came up again and again and again. My sense is that the public has a very strong will for change. What we must now be mindful of is that the essence of what communities have been saying does not get lost in translation. Next steps

    Thousands of public comments were received by the close of submissions on 28 February. They will now be analysed and used to create the outline of the Vulnerable Children’s

    Action Plan, to be released later this year. For information: www.childrensactionplan.govt.nz.

    Rise Issue 18 March 2012 7

Dream the impossible

    If Phillip Rhodes‟ life were an opera, it would begin in a state

    house with smashed windows.

    The curtain would rise on Phillip as a young boy, with five

    smaller sisters and a broken mother ruled by a drunk and

    violent father.

    It would be hard to imagine what twists in the plot could see

    this abused, disadvantaged Maori kid emerge as one of the

    rising stars of the international opera world.

    If Dame Kiri Te Kanawa‟s instincts prove to be right, Phillip

    Rhodes is someone for the world to keep its eyes on. Dame

    Kiri began to foster his talent after he won the prestigious

    Lexus Song Quest in 2007, a competition which helped to

    launch her own career in 1965.

    With support from the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, Phillip spent the last four years studying at the elite Cardiff International Academy of Voice in Wales. There he works with a small number of exceptional singers at the early-professional stage, selected and recruited globally, to develop and polish their talent to the highest professional standards. Now 32 years old, Phillip is back in New Zealand for a short time, taking the lead in the NZ Opera‟s Hohepa premiering in Wellington in March 2012.

    In all likelihood, his own one-year-old daughter will grow up with homes on both sides of the planet. Phillip‟s wife is Welsh. Phillip is from Hawke‟s Bay, of Ngati Awa and Ngati Kahungunu descent, but to succeed as an international star, he will need to make his mark in the opera houses of Europe.

    In his wildest dreams, it is not a future Phillip could have foreseen growing up among the tinny houses of Havelock North‟s Lipscombe Crescent.

    “My father led an abusive life. He abused drugs and alcohol, and then he‟d abuse us. My sisters and I copped a lot, but Mum had it worst of all. He beat up on her whenever it suited him.”

    When Phillip was nine, his father committed suicide. His mother could not cope. “She is the epitome of a survivor, but he broke her and she never came back from that.”

    It was 1988. Phillip and his five younger sisters were taken into state care and placed in a family foster home.

    Pam O‟Keefe can recall the day she and husband Henare met the Rhodes children for the first time. They were swinging on the garden gate with Phillip hanging in the background, all of them watching to see what sort of people these two strangers would turn out to be. She remembers opening her arms to them, and telling them that she loved them. Rise Issue 18 March 2012 8

    To begin with, Phillip didn‟t know how to respond to the relentless love that Henare and Pam wrapped around all their children and foster children.

    “I just wondered „What do these people want from me?‟” says Phillip. “I had grown up in a house where everyone wanted something from you. I remember the day we buried my dad, we came home to an empty house. Everything was gone, the beds, everything. His mates had decided that now he was gone, they‟d rob the place.

    “So with Henare and Pam, it took a long time to accept what they meant when they said they loved me. The only time we‟d ever heard that we were loved before was when dad was drunk and sobbing. So when we heard it for real, with no drinking, first thing every morning, it was hard to take. It took about four years before I let my guard down.”

    Henare and Pam

    Pam and Henare O‟Keefe have fostered more than 200 children over two decades. When

    they first met Phillip and his sisters back in 1988, the couple had just taken on the job of running the local family foster home.

    In the Flaxmere suburb of Hastings, Henare and Pam are held in esteem that outshines that of their opera-singing foster son. Flaxmere is a community that often makes the news for the wrong reasons crime, social deprivation and gang activity. But Henare, with the steadfast support and counsel of Pam, has dedicated himself to the community and especially its children and young people.

    A bear of a man, Henare‟s working life began in the Tomoana freezing works which employed 1,400 people. When the works closed in 1994, casting hundreds of local families onto social welfare, Henare emerged as a leader helping to run a resource centre for struggling families.

    Seventeen years later, he is a Hastings District councillor, a Duffy Books in Homes ambassador and a Flaxmere marae kaumatua. He started the U-Turn Trust, through which he runs a community vegetable garden, a horticultural course, a healthy living course, prisoner reintegration and alternative youth education.

    In 2008 he organised an “enough is enough” antiviolence hikoi after a spate of violence in Flaxmere, including a home invasion in which his daughter was threatened and her partner badly beaten.

    Then there is Tunutunu, a huge mobile barbecue, emblazoned with “It‟s OK to ask for help” family violence messages, which Henare and Pam take to the streets of Flaxmere in the weekends and evenings.

    “We are claiming back our community, our children, one sausage at a time,” he says with a chuckle.

    Fostering kids

    Becoming a foster parent, like most of Henare‟s life, did not happen by design.

    “I have a mother who was active in the community. Sometimes she would bring home the occasional stray and we‟d provide a home for a while. Pam and I became intoxicated with Rise Issue 18 March 2012 9

    the results seeing the smiles return to their faces after the abuse they had suffered. “Some of these kids are born into circumstances that I would not raise a dog in. There‟s no such thing as a bad baby, but things happened to them that put chips the size of Everest on their shoulders.

    “Sympathy is the bridge from their heart to yours. All kids long for a sense of value and affirmation. And they need it consistently.”

    Pam and Henare say they love each of their 200 foster children as their own, whether they stayed just a few weeks or many years.

    “We just get in there and love them, and if they disregard you, just love „em more.”

    For Pam, the outstanding memories come from Christmas, seeing the children come into the lounge, the delight as they ripped open their $2 Shop Christmas presents. For some it was the first time they‟d had a tree or presents.

    “All the kids had their special piece of magic to bring to the table and they all achieve in

    their own way,” says Henare. “They all feel like your own children and when it comes time to return them it can break your heart.”

    Because of that, the O‟Keefes were determined to involve the children‟s parents and families as much as they could.

    “If you are going to have an impact as foster parents you have to walk with the family as well, because in the end most of the kids will be going back there.

    “We‟d include the parents in our family as much as we could. They could see how we talked

    to their children, were fair and consistent and how we reprimanded their kids. We tried to show the parents that there is an alternative to beating their kids.”

    Poverty, says Henare, is no excuse for abusing your family. He thinks back to his own childhood, in a dirt-floor home with no electricity and wonders how his parents managed to feed them all.

    “But I can recall nothing, but good.”

    The impossible dream

    Pam and Henare brought love, music and a new way of life to Phillip Rhodes. “He was busy being a warrior, fighting and scrapping for survival,” says Henare. “When that was sorted for him, this beautiful shining jewel that had been sitting in there started to come forth.”

    Henare is a singer with a rich voice and a dab hand on the guitar. The family foster home often rang to the sound of singing. One night, Phillip heard Henare singing the Impossible Dream. It touched his heart.

    “I thought that‟s the man I want to be. It‟s such a fitting song, that I still struggle to sing it now. When I think of what I am doing now, that‟s the song that comes to mind.”

    Rise Issue 18 March 2012 10

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