Lisa Woolley, VisionWest Community Trust CEO, received an award in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours, becoming an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for her services to the community and governance. This is an acknowledgement of Lisa’s ongoing involvement in, and commitment to, VisionWest from its inception.
Lisa was one of the ten members of Glen Eden Baptist Church who, in 1982, began to dream about what the church could do to transform the lives of the vulnerable in the surrounding community. From these meetings came a drop-in centre providing various services out of the Glen Eden Railway Station. In November 1988, the Friendship Centre Trust – later to become the VisionWest Community Trust – was formed as an umbrella to the services being run out of the railway station.
Between 1984 and 1989, Lisa and her husband, Mark, spent time in Los Angeles, working with a group whose aim was to help people who had been addicts and prostitutes by providing them with support and a safe place to refocus their lives. The desire to help those facing challenging circumstances in their lives had always been there, but this time helped sharpen Lisa’s vision to be a part of an organisation that would journey with vulnerable whānau on the road to life-transformation.
On returning to New Zealand, and once her youngest daughter had started at school, Lisa began to look for something positive to do in the community. In 1998, she was appointed to the role of Manager of the Home Care Service (now VisionWest Home HealthCare). In February 2001, she moved to the position of Community Ministries Leader, a role which has since grown to that of CEO, the position she still holds.
In the 19 years Lisa has been CEO, VisionWest Community Trust has grown significantly to an organisation with around 1,500 employees providing a wide range of support services throughout West Auckland and other regions within New Zealand. More important, however, are the thousands of lives that have been touched and transformed by these services.
It has long been the vision of Lisa and the Trust that VisionWest would be a place vulnerable whānau can come to receive whatever support they require in order to enable a transformation of their lives. It is the needs of these people and the obvious life-transformations that motivate Lisa.
In her time with the Trust, Lisa has worked tirelessly to build the Trust and its people into an organisation that serves and supports the vulnerable in the community. 22 years later, she remains passionate about the mahi of VisionWest and doing something to alleviate the plight of those facing challenging circumstances in their lives.
On hearing that she had received the ONZM award, Lisa was typically humble, “I feel very humbled to receive this award and I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to serve, together with my wonderful husband Mark, alongside such amazing people as the VisionWest whānau as together we all seek to show love, generosity, compassion and support for whānau in our community. For me, this award acknowledges the commitment, dedication and passion of all the incredible people that make up our VisionWest team.”
Arvind Dayal, VisionWest Board Chairperson, said, “All of us who make up the team at VisionWest are thrilled to see Lisa honoured in this way. Lisa is a true inspiration to all who work with her and a wonderful example of how to champion change for those who don’t have a voice and are not heard. More than a CEO, she is a vocal advocate, mentor and leader for many.”