Community Works - May 2009
From the General Manager's Office
Community Probation & Psychological Services (CPPS) staff work on worthwhile projects in the community everyday.
We provide work parties of offenders on community work sentences and this contribution can make a real difference in how successful the projects are.
When you do it every day you can lose sight of how much good work we are doing, and how much the additional labour can mean to a not-for-profit organisation.
In the last issue of Community Works you read about the support that was being provided to people with cancer on the West Coast. Following this article the Southern Cancer Network contacted us to see if we might be able to expand this support to other parts
of the South Island.
Another organisation that benefits from CPPS providing work parties is Riding for the Disabled. In this issue of Community Works we take you to different places in the Central and Southern region where Riding for the Disabled is active.
Quite a few children with disabilities would be missing out on the chance to ride a horse if CPPS wasn’t helping out.
The above are just a few examples of the support CPPS provides to agencies in the community. If you know of projects in your area where community work parties could play a part, we would love to hear from you.
For more information please talk to staff at your nearest Probation Service Centre. Contact details can be found in the White Pages under the Department of Corrections (See C under the blue government department pages).
& Psychological Services
Mucking in to help the young ones
All around the country offenders serving community work sentences are helping out with Riding for the Disabled (RDA).
Tauranga Equestrian Therapy Centre Operations Manager Kat Macmillan says, “Without these people serving the community many not for profit organisations would find it hard to operate. And it works well for the offenders too. Many of them complete their hours and then come back as volunteers.”
Offenders not only help with the cleaning and maintenance work around the stables but some offenders may also be chosen to assist with leading the horses. “There are always two people walking the horse when a person with disabilities is riding,” says Belinda van Schalkwyk, the Senior Community Work Supervisor in Tauranga involved with this project.
“One of them is a volunteer and sometimes the other one will be one of the offenders on community work.
“Assisting Riding for the Disabled is a very good form of community work for offenders to do. They gain important skills towards an offence free life such as learning to work in groups.”
Kat says that the offenders work hard. “They are treated with respect and are humbled by working with other volunteers and seeing people with disabilities who are less advantaged than themselves.”
Glenys Kempton is Horse Manager and Instructor at the Southland RDA in Invercargill. About 100 riders, mainly children, come here each week.
“Horse riding is great for everybody, especially for children with disabilities and even those with behavioural problems. You soon learn to behave yourself if you’re on top of a horse!”
Glenys says they appreciate the labour they get from offenders on community work every Tuesday and Friday.
“On average three offenders help out with tasks such as cleaning and checking the paddocks for rabbit holes. That’s very important to ensure the horses don’t trip and fall down. But we mainly need the offenders to walk with the horses so the kids can ride. Without their help quite a few would miss out.
“The offenders get something out of this too. One of the female offenders has said that she’s only now discovering the beauty of these animals. She grew up on a farm and thought all animals were the same. But seeing how the children benefit from the horses and just working with them has opened her eyes.”
Growing your own
Switzer Residential Care in Kaitaia has caught on to the trend of having a vegetable garden. Offenders serving community work sentences had to start the garden from scratch about six months ago. The eventual harvest was enormous.
Glen Cowie is the Facilities Manager of this home with about 70 residents and one of the people behind this vegetable garden. “We had some assistance provided before by offenders on community work sentences. Because that went well we approached the Community Probation Service to see if they could help us out again.
“The result was just amazing. In April we still had beans coming out of our ears. We are hoping the winter harvest will be just as good as we have planted heaps; cabbages and such. I don’t know much about that side of things. Iva Grant, our gardener, decides what we need for each season.”
Senior Community Work Supervisor Reno Matiu says that at the end of March they planted cabbages, together with cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots and leeks. “We also trimmed the kumara, one of the first crops we planted.
“It was great to start this project from scratch. The offenders who knew a bit about gardening shared their knowledge with the less experienced. All of them got the chance to flex their green thumbs under the excellent leadership of Community Work Supervisor Norman Popata.”
“I did have a neighbour with a machine do the really tough digging at the start though,” says Glen. “But there was still enough left for the offenders to do in the garden which measures about 70 by 15 metres: hoeing, composting, planting, watering.”
The project didn’t end with the creation of the vegetable garden. CPPS provides a work party each week to help weed and maintain it. “This of course saves us money,” says Glen. “But it also ensures our residents have really fresh vegetables all year round!”
Bronze for Dig This
A community work sentence turned Aaron Wills’ life around. It involved putting his skills as a welder to use in Lyttelton Community Garden’s entry for the Ellerslie Flower Show.
“We like to use low risk offenders in their own community so they can make reparation where it counts, get involved in something positive and start turning a new leaf,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor Lesley Bell.
Around November last year Lesley knew that Project Lyttelton was looking for a welder to help the Lyttelton Community Garden with their entry for the Ellerslie Flower Show.
Lesley says, “They were really keen to take him on board. And it turned out really well. He worked very hard to do all the iron work in their entry. And we were all enormously pleased to hear that this entry called Dig This won bronze. This was an enormous achievement.
“Aaron put more hours into this project than he needed to and as far as changing his life around it certainly did. Aaron is definitely more positive and he has a brighter outlook on life than when I first met him. He is still doing voluntary work there and bringing all kinds of tradesmen in contact with the community garden.”
Aaron says he is very grateful to have been involved in this project. “It has been amazing to experience so much goodwill and camaraderie. I didn’t realise people did this kind of thing for gardens: making all the garden features and timberwork.”
Gardening in the senses
Kids of the Special Education Centre at Trident High School in Whakatane are benefiting from a sensory garden created last January with labour provided by offenders on community work sentences.
“It has provided a place for our kids to grow in a more relaxed and natural environment,” say David Holmes and Carolyn McCracken in a thank you letter from the school. “They have been growing vegetables, fruit and grass.”
David Holmes is Assistant Head of the Special Education Centre. He says, “The sensory garden has attributes that work well with some kids and their senses. Kids with autism like confined spaces so we have built a tunnel in the garden.
“Other children like the wobbly feeling of irregular stones under their feet so we have catered for them as well. There are fragrant herbs for them to smell and we are adding soft succulents for them to touch as well as harsher feeling plants.”
Senior Community Work Supervisor Lex Immink was happy when the project came his way. “We had been doing some other work for the school when they asked us if we’d be interested in creating this garden. It was great because we could get a little bit creative.”
Community Work Supervisor Jim Paroa supervised most crews. “He encouraged them to use their imagination and to give their very best,” says Lex.
David explains that the creative part lies in the set up of the garden: “We have made a lot of small stone walls around the garden so the kids in wheelchairs can get close to the plants.
"I showed the offenders how to do this and they were keen to learn and did their best to get it right. They did a great job and I would very much like to have support from CPPS for this 400 square metre garden!”
Raised vegetable gardens were also part of the garden that the offenders looked after and were also well received according to the letter.
“It gave our students a bright new spot to look forward to and use for learning about how to grow food, how to compost, weed, plant, water, create art, observe and do things with their hands. This is the way many kids and people alike learn the best.”
Getting the wetlands back
The biggest challenge for the community group Te Puna Estuary is getting rid of the mangrove trees to preserve the wetlands in The Bay of Plenty. The support of community work parties is making a huge difference.
The Jess Road salt marsh restoration project is a priority project for the community group. It covers more than eight hectares and combines fresh and salt water. An unnatural spread of mangroves is related to additional nutrients and sediments entering the harbour.
It is significantly increasing the presence of mangroves. They retain silt and mud around their base, making the environment uninhabitable for many birds and wildlife.
Kirsty Walker, chair of the community group Te Puna Estuary, says clearing the area of mangroves is especially hard work. “Most of our volunteers are not really up to that kind of physical activity.”
“Although the offenders on community work can’t use machines, they can help us dig the mangroves out manually. A complication is that the digging work can only be done two hours on each side of the tide. So community work parties are really upping our manpower
which we appreciate greatly.”
The offenders help stack the mangroves that have been dug up. In addition they have provided many hours of labour and given a huge, positive boost to the pest weed clearing and planting of our coastal margins.
“Because we as a community group care about this environment, we think it’s important that people who do work here also know something about it,” says Kirsty. “So we like to explain to the offenders beforehand what the aim and importance of this project is. And from what I have seen they have really given their best to help.”
Senior Community Work Supervisor Paddy Matthews is always happy for work parties to go to Te Puna Estuary. “Because the tides play such a big part in getting out the mangroves, it is a bit of a challenge which is good. I think this is a great project for community work parties because everybody benefits from it.”
Kirsty says that since the mangrove clearing started in 2007, they have seen more birdlife; among others an increasing number of pied stilts as well as fern birds have been heard.