Te Whare Mahana community hub in Levin is back in business after the lockdown and with two new co-ordinators, who started together earlier in the year, raring to go with plenty of new ideas.
Victoria Gregory and Faalele Pitone Iese took over from Eleanor Gully in January to form an ideal combination for a job share as they have complementary skills. Victoria is great in developing ideas, while Faalele has superb administration and negotiating skills.
Faalele spent many years working for Samoa's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and has experience working with overseas trade missions, including those from New Zealand and China.
"I started as a clerk and eventually became the executive assistance to the CEO."
She moved to New Zealand in 2018 with her family, having finally gained residency as part of the annual Samoan quota of residents allowed to move here, as is the custom with all Pacific nations.
"It was our last chance and after applying for years in a row we were delighted to be successful," she said.
Their final hurdle was securing a job offer here in New Zealand, without which the dream would have ended.
Her husband, a builder, had an uncle in Levin who helped him get a job. It took Faalele herself almost two years to secure one for herself at Te Whare Mahana, where she takes care of a plethora of administrations tasks, such as accounts, record keeping, dealing with emails, looking after the tenants and booking rooms for users.
"I did a lot of administration back home at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and it is a blessing to finally have a job here," she said.
She applied at the same time as Victoria, who has a background in human rights and development work. Last year Victoria was in Timor Leste working as a programme manager for Volunteers Service Aboard.
Food stall move to benefit many more locals
"It was the biggest project VSA had in the Pacific and I built it up to include 30 partner organisations."
She had a lot to do with New Zealand Embassy officials while there, so had work experience similar to that of Faalele.
Before the job in Timor Leste she worked in South Africa in projects dealing with children's rights.
"In between the South Africa and Timor Leste jobs my partner and I decided we wanted to move back home, but to a small town, preferably to a lifestyle block not too far from Wellington."
She knew the hub's previous co-ordinator, Eleanor Gully, who wrote to her more than once urging her to apply for the position, but as far as Victoria was concerned there was a big hurdle.
"I didn't want to work fulltime and had no inclination to do administration. I had never had a role in administration before.
"Lucky for me Faalele applied at the same time and the council recognised we had complementary skills so a job share was suggested and accepted."
They both say that works well for them, and they make sure they both spent at least one day week in the office together, so both are up with the play.
Previously Victoria worked for the Human Rights Commission as an adviser and educator. She served on boards of community organisations and worked in government departments.
Victoria focuses on promotion as well as developing new ventures for the hub so it can serve the community better. Recent additions have been the food stall and a book swap as well as a series of hot desks.
The latter can be hired by people who work further away, in the Hutt Valley, Wellington or Palmerston North and have the ability to regularly work remotely, but do not always want to do that at home.
Te Whare Mahana has a number of permanent tenants such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, has a boardroom for hire as well as a large conference room, an opportunity organisations like St John and Industry Training Solutions make use of.
There are arts and crafts groups that meet at the hub. Various rooms are for hire as well as the kitchen. The centre has wifi and makes audio visuals equipment as well as white boards and screens available if needed.
"I would love to bring together community services groups and government, local, regional and national, so they can speak with one voice about local needs.
"We also have regular meetings with our own tenants, so we can promote collaboration and share what each organisation is doing and that creates understanding about what others do."
A programme of courses and workshops is being developed and it appears the community is keen to see more being done about being green and sustainability.
"We plan to revamp a deck area at the back of the building into a garden and work area, where we can teach people how to grow plants, make compost, do preserving."
Upcycling clothing and furniture is on the plan as well as workshops promoting wellbeing for community workers, therapy groups for different age groups, governance, grandparents raising grandkids, local Māori history and ToW issues, preparing for emergencies, and mental health issues, such as how depression or suicidal thoughts can be identified, wellbeing for farmers too.
She is not short on ideas.
"It is my job to identify needs within the community and then find people to do this. So we need lots of help to make this work. If anyone can help realise these courses or workshop we'd love to hear from them," said Victoria.
Te Whare Mahana Community Hub, 32 Bristol St, Levin, ph 368 1195, firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is open Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.