Inmates build home for family

By Lindy Laird

ON THE HOME STRAIGHT: Corrections Minister Judith Collins, (centre), with the Phillips family, Storm, mother Dana, Lucion and Zion. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
ON THE HOME STRAIGHT: Corrections Minister Judith Collins, (centre), with the Phillips family, Storm, mother Dana, Lucion and Zion. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

It is not every day the Minister of Corrections gives her blessing to something getting heaved over the fence of a prison but at Ngawha yesterday she was celebrating just such an event.

Minister Judith Collins was at the Northern Region Corrections Facility (also known as Ngawha Prison) to officially hand over a three-bedroom house built within the prison grounds by inmates in conjunction with house provider charity Habitat for Humanity.

It is the third house built by Habitat for Humanity through a prison training programme, and the second of those built inside the prison itself.

New owners Dana Phillips and her three children, Zion, 16, Storm, 11, and Lucion, 5, saw their home for the first time at the ceremony.

"It's beautiful," an emotional Ms Phillips said as she and her children led the way inside after Ms Collins cut the ribbon.

"I can't thank everyone enough. You have no idea how much this means to me and my children."

Most of the 10 prisoners who worked on the building were among the many people at the "house lifting". Ms Phillips said they had helped change her family's lives for the better and she hoped they would use what they had learned during the job to build themselves a future.

"Building this house provided a great opportunity for prisoners to learn skills for future employment," Ms Collins said.

"This includes practical experience such as gibbing walls, using power tools correctly, and complying with health and safety regulations.

"Working on a real project prepares [prisoners] for a career in construction, while also helping a Northland family in need. Supporting prisoners into stable employment is key to improving the lives not only of offenders, but also of their families and the community."

After the house was blessed by Ngapuhi kaumatua, kuia and prison officials, it was hoisted by crane over a fence to an outer area of the compound.

It will be lifted over the barbed-wire topped, concrete prison wall on Monday and taken by truck to its permanent site in Corks Rd, Whangarei.

Construction started in May last year by the 10 prisoners participating in the prison's carpentry programme. At yesterday's house lifting, Ms Phillips and Claire Szabo, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity in New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, presented them with a Level 3 Certificate in Building Construction and Allied Trade Skills, gained through Weltec.

The family is expected to move in early next month.

- Northern Advocate

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