30 Oct 2015

Whitianga Philanthropy

From Country Life, 9:30 pm on 30 October 2015
Youth social worker Steffen Lindner with Timmahl James Jackman

Whitianga youth social worker Steffen Lindner has just had a couple of pieces of paper thrust into his hand. Photo: RNZ / Carol Stiles

On closer inspection he sees that they are police infringement notices. A young man has just given them to him not knowing what to do.

"He has to pay $450 dollars and I know he don't have money."

Steffen works out of a building known in Whitianga as The Youth Space, a space that offers a place for young people between the age or 12 and 24 to hang out, take part in activities and find support if they need it.

"So he never would come in a normal office to ask someone for help..he told me it's just because he know us through all the other things we are doing here that he is trusting me and asked me for help."

The Youth Space is run under the umbrella of the Whitianga Social Services Trust - a Trust established in the late 1960's to support people living in the rurally isolated Mercury Bay area.  

Today the Trust offers dozens of services for children, young people families and the elderly.

Each year in the a community of 7500, it works closely with 1800 people who need support.

Local businessman Stephan Bosman is on the Trust board.

"We have an amazing community  but like all communities it is not perfect. We need to provide a complete safety net."

Stephan says earlier this year, when the weather was warmer, the Trust became aware women were sleeping on the beach.

Whitianga doesn't have a women's refuge or women's shelter and they had nowhere to go.

"They shifted here with their partners and the relationship didn't work out and they had nobody here and they had no means to go anywhere."

Stephan says Whitianga Social Services rescued them off the beach and helped put them in touch with people happy to accommodate them until they could return to where they had support.  

"If Social Services wasn't going to do it who on earth was going to help them," he says.

"Personally I just can't see, in any civilised society, that we have to tolerate people suffering primarily where it is not a result of their own doing."

Whitianga op shop volunteer Sandra Robinson

Whitianga op shop volunteer Sandra Robinson Photo: RNZ / Carol Stiles