“I know the words ‘wrap around service’ are a bit overused,” begins Ginny Larsen, “but that’s what we are. We provide community services at all different levels and to all sorts of people; from ante-natal to older adults. There is a foodbank, counselling service, music group, playgroup, community newspaper, exercise programme, adults’ literacy and ESOL programme, and a number of other initiatives.”
Ginny works with the Neighbourhood Trust, the community ministries arm of St Albans Baptist in Christchurch. “The programmes we run are very grassroots,” she explains. “They arose out of needs we saw in the community or discovered through surveys we ran. They are things that just weren’t being provided by anyone else.”
The Success-Makers Programme began that way and has grown quickly over the past few years. SuccessMaker is a software programme designed to teach literacy, and numeracy which the Trust has been given permission to use on laptop by the programme’s New Zealand owner. “There were a number of young women in our community who had left school early with very little education,” explains Ginny. “Now, they have little babies themselves and struggle to get out of the house. Without some help they will go through life with limited, or perhaps no, literacy skills.”
SuccessMaker tutors to go into homes and teach while the client’s baby is asleep. The first step towards helping the girls is to do an evaluation of where they are at and set some goals. The interesting thing is, even that introductory process gives the young women confidence—and the programme hasn’t even begun yet. Over recent years, the needs within the community have changed somewhat. Members of the Trust noticed an increasing number of new people in their community, many of them new migrants.
“We noticed that they often came as a young family, with the men having employment here,” says Ginny, “while the women were often at home with young children. Being new to New Zealand, they would be very isolated and often became quite depressed. Working with the Christchurch Migrant Centre, we looked at ways we could the SuccessMaker programme ESOL component for new immigrants.”
It didn’t take long for the word to get around. Even with the criteria set at people who had been in the country for less than two years, the Neighbourhood Trust had, within a short period of time, a flood of people from many different nationalities. The programme has seen people gain their drivers’ licences, gain New Zealand residency, find part-time employment, go on to further study, etc.
A note was received from one of the husbands of the women. “Thank you for taking time and caring for my wife. I cannot explain what this has meant for her and how she has improved in many skills and in confidence. She now understands Kiwi culture and is far more confident than before. It has been good to get the help and support so we can fit into the community.”
If you would like to find out more about this local mission project, contact [email protected]