While the exact number may not be known, it is certain that many organisations throughout Aotearoa New Zealand have a charitable trust as part of their work. A challenge for many of these trusts is navigating to the next phase of growth as they seek to utilise the trust to support whānau and impact their communities. That’s what the Community Impact Day – run on Wednesday 1 November, as a precursor to the 2023 Baptist Hui – was all about.
Around 50 Hui delegates attended the day, held at Glen Eden Baptist Church (GEBC) and hosted by Visionwest Community Trust. GEBC established the trust that evolved into Visionwest as a way to respond to growing the growing needs of whānau in their community. Over 30 years later, the trust has grown significantly and continues to work towards achieving its vision to see Transformed Lives, Healthy Communities throughout West Auckland.
Charles Hewlett, National Baptist Leader, presented the Community Impact Day’s keynote address. He was generously honest in sharing of a time when he and his whānau needed help from a local community trust. After speaking of the way the trust and the support workers from it had supported them through a particularly challenging time for his whānau, he divulged that the trust that had helped him so much was Visionwest.
Sessions held throughout the day were led by Visionwest and GEBC kaimahi with the focus including Visionwest’s Te Tiriti journey, how to use a trust to provide food support to a community (including a tour of Manaaki Kai, Visionwest’s social supermarket), how to use a community trust to address Aotearoa’s need for social housing, and the role of a community trusts in community development.
Community Impact Day Learnings
While the takeaways from the Community Impact Day were many, and varied from person to person, a couple of aspects stood out. The first is the understanding that all trusts start small, but size does not need to hamper their effectiveness and, with tenacity and resilience, coupled with the need to take the occasional calculated risk, growth will occur, and goals will be met.
Like every trust, Visionwest Community Trust began small. It originated as a drop-in centre in the dilapidated Glen Eden railway station building. Throughout the trust’s history, it has grown as trustees and Visionwest staff saw needs within their community and responded positively to the associated “what if?” questions. Today Visionwest employs over 1,700 people and provides a suite of wraparound support services including housing, food support, counselling, budgeting and financial mentoring, youth development for employment, in-home healthcare, and early childhood education. Offices are situated in Auckland West, Auckland North, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, and Christchurch.
A second takeaway is the need to take seriously Te Tiriti and the challenge to deliver support services in a culturally appropriate way. In recent years, Visionwest has undertaken a proactive Kaupapa Māori journey, in part to honour the tāngata whenua but also to provide appropriate service processes. This is vitally important in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland were Māori and Pasifika are disproportionately represented in those seeking social support. Visionwest has also recently appointed a Head of Pasifika Development alongside our head of Māori Development.
Community Impact Day delegates appreciated the willingness of Visionwest, GEBC and other speakers to share their journeys in a way that provides enthusiasm to even the newest trust and shows what determination coupled with focused mission can achieve.