Wednesday, June 21, 2017
If you have been to visit Rice Cube the international meeting on Friday nights at South West Baptist Church, in Balcairn Street, you will know the familiar face of Claire Russell who has been leading this group since 2011. Around 60 people turn up each Friday night, with ages ranging from 3 to 70 to eat together, play games and to study English.
Claire has a huge heart for international people in our community. She believes this stems from her childhood experience of growing up in Rotorua and going to a predominantly Maori school. This was her first experience of a culture "different from her own". She also witnessed the bus loads of people who came to visit the area from overseas.
Now, in her third decade, it seems that a lot of her previous work and studies have helped prepare her for her work at Rice Cube. After completing a degree at Canterbury University in Education, Claire taught overseas in Korea for three years. She has also taught English As a Second Language in Christchurch and also did a six month stint in Fiji doing missions and social development work. In additional to all this, Claire has completed a Theology degree at Laidlaw College.
It was more by chance that Claire got involved at Rice Cube, though. During her time in Korea, she met a girl named Kylie and then met her again in Christchurch. It was Kylie who asked Claire to co-lead Rice Cube in preparation for taking over the responsibility as she was heading back overseas.
In taking on this role, Claire has found it to be very rewarding. She says that she is a person that loves to connect people and that is what Rice Cube is all about. It brings people together of all ages, and people who are new to a country often struggle with loneliness. "As a group, we offer support and friendship and the environment is very inclusive and welcoming" enthuses Claire.
2016 brought some changes to the Rice Cube gatherings. Last year the group spilt in order to meet the needs of the different age groups. On Friday nights the adults and families meet at Halswell site from 6pm – 8.30pm and the teens meet at the Spreydon site of South West Baptist Church from 5.30pm – 8pm. Claire would also like to highlight other new local opportunities for international people here: English language classes run on Wednesday mornings 9-11am at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre for $4. This follows on from the success of the classes that were started in Wigram a couple of years ago. And secondly, there is now a huge amount of resources available for the international community at the new library. She suggests that people go into the library and ask what is there.
Apart from organising Ricecube, Claire is also a pastor at South West Baptist church which sees her busy in other roles. When she gets time away from it all, Claire likes to read, go for walks and holiday in her camper.
Rice Cube is bringing a wealth of opportunities for international people to make lasting connections. Claire says “If you would like to have a great social night out and some great food, pop along on Friday nights to the South West Baptist Church in Balcairn St.” If you would like to contact her, phone 3384163 ext 242 or email@example.com
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Des Kale, now in his early seventies, was born in Palmerston North, and grew up in Wellington. He was diagnosed with cancer on the spine at the tender age of four. Des explains his journey: "Specialists removed as much of it as they could and left some benign cancer, however in the 1960s, my legs started to go again". After some radiation treatment, the doctors sent me home with the conclusion "there was nothing more they could do for me". Ironically, Des has outlived all the doctors who had sent him home to die.
Not held back by the challenge of living without the use of legs, Des found several work opportunities. If you own a Fisher n' Paykel steam and dry iron, it is possible that Des assembled it for you in a factory in Auckland. Moving later to Christchurch, Des worked at Tate Electronics when it was in the city centre. He enjoyed his work there, however, he didn't like having to rely on people to lift him in and out of the two-storey building, and he began to look for a new job. Des's next workplace was at a Canterbury engineering firm in the 1990s until he was made redundant during a time of restructuring.
Des moved to live at St John of God Halswell as he couldn't do things at home by himself anymore. With a natural, upbeat temperament and outlook, Des finds all sorts of ways to help others. He can usually be spotted guiding new visitors to the rooms they are looking for. Other residents have noticed that Des has "become a real part of the place". Des will tell you that he loves being at St John of God and “the staff are fantastic".
Judith Cain had her life all mapped out. She is the daughter of the family who owned the well-known Christchurch company "Cain's Caterers," and with that influence had developed a real love of cooking. After qualifiying in teaching food, nutrition, clothing and textiles, Judith took a gap year in Australia. The plan was that she would come home and take over the family business with her mum the following year. All of Judith's dreams and hopes vanished in but one moment when she was rear ended by a 4WD driver, just three months after arriving in Sydney.
Left with a debilitating back injury, Judith began an eight year road of recovery. During these difficult years, Judith determinedly, began her own clothing cutting business as "clothing was a close second passion to food". Business was going well and she began to buy up real estate as a hobby. However, at the age of 46 her life took a second dramatic turn when she received the incomprehensible news that she had Muscular Sclerosis.
Judith's family eventually moved her to Christchurch where she lived in Edith Cavell home in Sumner for ten years. Three years ago, she relocated to live in St John of God Halswell.
Judith still loves to chat about cooking and clothing, and while finding most movements difficult, she still has some use of her hands. It has recently been suggested that she use some of her many cooking skills to help in the kitchen of the Occupational Therapy room at St John of God Halswell. "It's not over yet!" says Judith with a beaming smile.
Tina moved to St John of God Halswell three and a half years ago, leaving her home in Burnside as household activities had become hazardous for her. Tina was born and raised in Christchurch, and attended Burwood Primary, Shirley Intermediate, and Burnside High School. As a child, she can remember being in trouble for being side-tracked by reading. She was an able student who was encouraged to sit six subjects for School Certificate, instead of the usual five. Tina thought about what would be a long term employable skill and trained to be a typist.
Marriage came next at age twenty, then, Tina had her first child, Rowena. At the age of 23, Tina received the devastating news that she had Multiple Sclerosis. Her son James was born after that diagnosis and Tina's children became her salvation and strength to face the battles ahead.
Simply finding that she had very little time to think about herself, as all young mothers do, she focused on doing all that she could for her children. She took them to Plunket, kindergarten and school escorting them by ridingon her mobility scooter. Tina continued to focus on her family's needs above her own, and her efforts paid off as her children grew into capable adults with careers in law and mechanics.
Tina talks of the deeper changes in her thinking. Her experiences taught her that "life is not all fun and games," and "if something good comes along, you need to take it with both hands, because the next day it may be gone."
Today, family has continued to be a large focus for Tina; she loves to go shopping with her daughter for her new grandchild and frequently visits her elderly mum. In her free time, she makes her way through the big pile of books in her room and enjoys tending to her garden.
Sometimes, life can throw some pretty big curve balls. The experiences that Des, Judith and Tina have had to deal with, are about as difficult as it gets. We can learn so much from them about coping with the unexpected, how to live with changed dreams and how to find a new pathway that will bring a sense of fulfilment and joy.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Ron Fensom is a familiar face in Halswell firstly, because he has lived here since 1960 and secondly, because he has devoted all of his spare time to community service, achieving much and collecting a number of awards along the way.
The Halswell Lions Club, of which Ron joined as a founding member in 1978, gave Ron a President's Appreciation Award for outstanding service in 1993/1994. The Riccarton Wigram Community Board have awarded Ron twice; with a Community Service Award in 2000 and with a Certificate of Appreciation for unparalleled commitment and dedicated long service to the Halswell area, in 2016. Making the Queen's Birthday list of honours in 2004, Ron was awarded the Queen's Service Medal for community service. In 2006, The Christchurch City Council gave him the Civic Award for services to his community. More recently, the Halswell Residents Association presented Ron with a quarry rock trophy engraved 'Ron Fensom Q.S.M Lord Mayor of Halswell' for having the vision to form the Halswell Residents Association and for chairing it for 22 years. As if all this isn't enough, Ron is also a former Jaycee, a founding member of the Halswell Probus group, and a member of the Templeton Returned Servicemen Association.
Ron attributes his love of community work to growing up in the little West coast town of Kumara that was always "pitching in together." His mother, although she passed away at the age of 29, was an influence too, as she was a tireless community worker. Ron settled in Christchurch, where he met his future wife Jennifer and the pair moved to Halswell to raise their three children. Earning a living as as a plant engineer at Hornby Glassworks and later, Lane Walker Rudkin, Ron was often on call day and night. After this, he worked as a sales engineer for Andrews and Beaven, which he thoroughly enjoyed, travelling throughout the South Island giving lectures on energy efficiency.
Today, Halswell residents continue to benefit from the things that Ron and the clubs and committees that he belongs to, have campaigned for. There are far too many to list but some that come to mind are: the bus route being directed to go past the hospital, the Annual Anzac Parade, the Halswell War Memorial Restoration, the Halswell and Halswell Junction intersection upgrade, public meetings on local issues, court battles to save buildings, new footpaths, pedestrian crossings, cycleways, mitigation systems for Lillian St flooding, speed limits, new ward boundaries and so on. Ron through the Lions Club, has been able to be involved with many other local projects as well as attending seven district conventions and one international convention.
The project that Ron is most proud of is chairing forty-two meetings over fifteen years, in order to retain the extension of the Domain so sports facilities could be expanded there. Yet, Ron reveals a lovely humble attitude, when explaining some of his motivations: " I'm just an ordinary guy," "I learnt how to project manage while I was an engineer," "I think a dream without action is a figment of your imagination," and "You can get a lot done if you enjoy what you are doing." Ron is not an "ordinary guy." The long list of awards testifies to this. He has worked tirelessly and courageously to leave Halswell with a stronger identity through historical projects, and also to make changes and provisions for the current and future needs of this area. For those of us who are newer residents, it is good to know of the upstanding citizens who fought to make Halswell the wonderful community minded place that it's known for today. May we not be too busy building our lives, that we do not contribute to the place around us, or be the generation that does not see beyond our own needs. Ron Fensom Q.S.M has a remarkable legacy that we all are the receiptants of. He is, and possibly always will be the 'Lord Mayor of Halswell.'
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Annie Finlayson is well known to many people in this area as she has been teaching at Aidanfield Christian School for twenty years. She has also taught in several other schools in Invercargill, Dunedin and Christchurch accruing a total of forty five years unbroken teaching experience. Incredibly, she has never lost passion for her job. Her smiling face is testament to the joy she feels and after all this time, she still has the knack of making new students and their families feel incredibly important. Being very much appreciated by the students, parents and colleagues around her, the recent school drama production of "Annie" was dedicated to her.
"Miss Annie" as she is affectionately called, grew up in Mosgiel, Timaru and had a stint in a Nelson boarding school. Both of her parents valued academic education and Annie can remember "loving everything about school." She vividly recalls observing a teacher taking the attendance register when she was seven and thought "how cool that was." Becoming a teacher was a most natural step for her.
"Supportive" is how Annie describes her teaching style. At the start of the day, she greets the children and tries to get an idea of how the children are feeling. "It makes it easier to start the day on a positive note and the children go with it." From there, she "tries to get the important stuff done: numeracy and literacy." Her manner is confirmed by present-day students who say "when Miss Annie tells you off, you don't feel angry; you feel sad because you have disappointed her and you decide not to it again." Other students describe her as "gentle, kind and understanding." Annie simply says " She loves kids, and that teaching is the only job that she has ever wanted to do."
Favourite memories for Annie include the children's successes, their eureka moments, a the day to day learning. Annie reminisces: "the five year old who came into the class yelling 'I can write my name!'; the shy smiles of children when they realize they can do this; the classmates who reach out and say 'come into my group' and the parents who are overwhelmed with whether their wee treasures' learning is secure or not, and need encouragement that it is not over yet." Many students have stayed in touch and Annie has enjoyed hearing of the birthdays, weddings and new babies of her ex-pupils. Similarly, meeting former students in the community who still recognise her has also been a highlight.
Often central to Annie's thoughts and conversation is her own family: son James, daughter-in-law Jo and grandchildren Maia, Nico and Cooper. Annie "Being a grandmother is amazing and always a joy. They are my precious treasures," effuses Annie. Spending more time with them, as well as going shopping and drinking coffee with friends is what she looks forward to.
Annie is leaving behind a wonderful positive legacy of teaching and relationships. Fortunately, Aidanfield won't lose her completely, as she will most likely be back as a relief teacher.
Friday, January 27, 2017
Sue Britt is a very familiar face in the Halswell community because she has lived here for twenty years but also because of her public performances as the ever patient assistant of Elgregoe aka Greg Britt, Sue's husband. Sue and Greg are recognised as two of New Zealand's top school show performers and spend most of their time delivering a 'You've Got the Power' message that has been seen by over 850, 000 students and reaches an estimated twenty percent of New Zealand Year 1-8 students every year. Combined in their show are tricks, ventriloquism, puppets, parrots, songs, poems, amazing illusion and audience participation making a fast and fun show. Their passion is not just to perform great shows but to challenge students about how they treat others at school. The traffic theme this year, taught students "to STOP bullying, to SLOW down and think about what they can say and to go and be the student that can make a difference."
A born and bred Cantabrian, Sue went to St Martins Primary and Cashmere High. Sports and creative classes such as cooking and sewing caught Sue's interest, rather than traditional academic subjects. On leaving school, Sue enjoyed working as a receptionist for an accounting firm. Life took a different turn when she met Greg through a youth group and they married. Sue's life became focused on raising their children and working part-time. Once her children were independent, Sue began touring with her husband, entertaining children throughout New Zealand.
The El Gregoe show evolved gradually. Greg's passion for magic led to the opening of a magic shop in the Shades Arcade and then in Colombo St for fifteen years. However, stiff competition from outlets such as the $2 shops, The Warehouse and the internet began to make the business uneconomic and sadly, they had to close the store. However, sometimes great things come from the most difficult of circumstances, and the magic shows were born with a timely request from a Halswell school principal at the time. He asked Greg if he could bring some magic with a message addressing bullying issues and the show was so well received, other schools started requesting a visit. Greg then, went to Australia to spend time with Clifford Warne's Television presenter and author of many books on communicating with an audience, in order to develop routines that would work with an anti-bullying theme.
The Elgregoe school show has been very busy ever since travelling up and down the country delivering the much needed message that Bullying isn't cool, and You've Got the Power to Make a Difference. It has been a very rewarding experience as Sue and Greg meet adults in the malls who recite the earlier slogans such as It's cool to care, from shows they had seen in their school days. Sue says that in recent years, schools are seeing the importance of teaching key values, building good relationships and encouraging students to make a positive contribution at school. Responsible, Respect, Courage, Integrity, and Acceptance, are key words of the show. Sue loves that they are teaching life skills and giving people tools to combat bullying. Touring the poorer areas, tugs on her heartstrings; the places were there is not enough money for children's lunches or shoes. However, seeing many parts of New Zealand, has also been an interesting, as Sue suggests she wouldn't have got to visit them otherwise.
Despite all the travelling, the Britts have managed to grow a close family. Sue describes herself as "fairly family minded" adding that they "modelled their family on other families they had observed around them." Their three children, are friends but give each other space too. Interestedly, a public life working with children, has been embraced by Sue and Greg's children as they have all, in their own ways followed in their footsteps. Melanie, pursued a career in early childhood. Nicholas worked with his dad for four years and has now carved out his own career as a magician on the Sunshine Coast and Tash is a 24/7 worker in local schools and is in charge of the children and youth's Sunday School programme at South West Baptist Church. Melanie and her husband Sam have just had their first baby, Nicholas and his wife Jess have three children and Tash is about to get married to Curtis from Wales who is working on the rebuild downtown.
At the moment, the Britts are also in the midst of designing and practising a new show for the new year, in order to begin a whole new round of touring. Balancing grand parenting, wedding planning, tour planning and performing, Sue finds peace when walking and gardening. The tranquil surroundings of Halswell, are also a welcome tonic. Sue and Greg together, have created a very happy family life, while at the same time have been delivering a great proactive message to huge numbers of New Zealand children. These are both pretty impressive achievements.
Nick Hawes and Pauline Dellow of Cats in Your Face
Nick and Pauline are fairly surprised by the creative hobby they have begun in the last year or so as they are also rather busy with their graphic design business, Yellow Pencil.
Painting brightly coloured terracotta pots with vivacious looking black and white cats, had a surprising beginning: from volunteer fundraising for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter at local rural A and P shows. The pair had enjoyed working there so much that when it was over they began to wonder what they could do at a regular market. After some thought, they decided to combine Pauline's love of painting, Nick’s graphic design skills and their mutual love of cats. It's a concept that is working as they are selling well, and the couple have enjoyed seeing faces light up as they head over to their stall. Many have suggested that they could develop their hobby into a business. However, the last thing they want is “for it to turn into another busy job." The Halswell Market has been their home and they love meeting customers but also the regular community developing around the market. "You get to catch up with everyone once a month without all the trouble of organising dinner parties," says Nick cheekily. Having been married for 38 years, with kids grown and left home; their newfound hobby has also been something nice to do together.
If you would like to see Cats in Your Face products, you can find them at the Halswell Market, which is every fourth Sunday in the St John of God gardens 12 - 3pm. If you wish to contact Nick and Pauline, see their Facebook page or website www.catsinyourface.co.nz
Paul Harding Browne of No Boundaries Furniture
As is often the case with creative people, Paul's interest in all things woodworking began as a child. He grew up in a family that didn't watch television. " We were always busy building something." His father's reply to the question " Can we buy a...?" was always "Let's see if we can make it. " Paul began making projects at the age of eight or nine and one of his first pieces was a "funky round TV cabinet." People's first reactions were "You're mad." "Why are you making something so complicated?" and "Why don't you just make it a square?" However, orders eventually began to come in from family and friends for cots, tables, bedroom furniture, bookshelves and wall units. Realising that he liked new creative challenges, he set up a custom made furniture business ten years ago.
No Boundaries Furniture creates any piece of furniture in a wood and metal combination, but primarily with wood. Teaming up with local upholsterer, Brian Roper of WPS Upholstery, Paul is able to fulfil client requests for designs that require cushions and upholstery. Paul loves to fulfil client expectations because "they have often found a design that they are really excited about." Furthermore, "bringing life to an old piece of furniture is also very rewarding." Other aspects of the business are in-house cabinetry, furniture alterations and designer furniture. Not wanting to waste the beautiful wood offcuts lying around the workshop, Paul has created several artistic pieces of furniture. For a more in-depth look at Paul's work please go to
Lynette Brass of Wedding Flowers by Lynette
Floristy was an early “calling” for Lynette as she had made up her mind that she wanted to be a florist at the early age of five. She also recalls getting in trouble after school because she had collected bunches of flowers from people's gardens on the way home. In a similar way, the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana revealed an early interest. Lynette can remember everyone was talking about the dress, except for her because she couldn't wait to see the bridal bouquet!
On leaving school, Lynette worked in an Interfloral flower shop and trained as a florist. About the same time, she began to arrange bridal flowers for weddings of friends and relatives, and has continued to do this for the past 25 years. Lynette also works part-time in the dental health department of the CDHB. It wasn't until 2012 that she began Wedding Flowers by Lynette and formalised what she had already been doing for many years.
Lynette's business has taken off and is hectic during the wedding months. Regular posts on Facebook and her website show beautiful attention to detail in an array of various flowers and styles. Clearly evident is Lynette's pride and joy in her work, shown through the quality of her arrangements and the beautiful photographs that she takes or posts. Going beyond what the client expects in creative ways is also an a part of Lynette's business style and something that she really enjoys doing. In her spare time, Lynette can be found in her garden, or studying the floral fashions of Europe and celebrity weddings.
To find Wedding Flowers by Lynette go to www.christchurchweddingflowers.co.nz
Sixty residents are living on site, 24 more are supported in the community and there are approximately 40 outpatients per month. About one-third of the residents are undergoing rehab and therapy before returning home or to a supported living arrangement. Originally, it was a hospital but in recent years, there is far greater focus on creating an active and social lifestyle for the residents who are living with a physical disability or an injury as a result of an accident or neurological condition.
The original hospital was replaced in 1999 with a modern building designed and equipped to meet the needs of the residents. As you walk in, you are greeted by friendly, happy staff and spacious, light surroundings. The beautiful gardens also make this an attractive place to live.
The founding principles declare that St John of God would be an organisation that looks after its residents and also its staff well. There's a commendable low turnover rate amongst the 150 staff and some have worked there for over 30 years. One such example is Brendan Kubala, who as head grounds-person, is known for his diligence in his care of the award-winning gardens.
The gardens and the space at St John of God Halswell have proved very useful in developing community relationships. Traditionally, the organisation had always been proactive in getting its residents active through sport, recreation, bowling, arts and crafts, shopping trips and meeting friends for coffee. However, Virginia Spoors, the Regional Manager of Health and Ability Services, St John of God Hauora Trust, explains that in 2013 the service introduced a model of care “My Life”. Traditionally the service had a very medical focus but the“model of care now incorporates a much more social focus and involves not only ensuring that residents are interacting with the community but that the community is interacting with us.” Since then, several new projects have developed.
Photo: Regional Manager Virginia Spoors and Community Liaison Officer Vicky Taylor
The first was "Carols by Treelight", which started four years ago and is an event that is getting bigger every year. Next came the Halswell Menzshed, which is a meeting of retired and semi-retired men in St John of God's workshop”. "It's a symbiotic relationship", comments Virginia. “The Menzshed meets in our facilities, and they help the residents with their own projects." The next initiative was prompted by a request from the Halswell Community Project who wanted to know if St John of God would be interested in hosting a market once a month. St John of God agreed that this would be great for the residents and the market has been well attended by residents, residents' families and the general public. Another more recent community based initiative is "Project Grow", which will be the creation of a community garden with the Rowley Community Centre.
The new model of care is interestingly illustrated by a piece of framed toast above Virginia’s desk. When questioned she explained that it symbolised the creativity and problem solving that the model incorporates. We have moved from a “cold toast model of care to a hot toast model of care”. Staff work hard at ensuring people’s individual needs are met including when and how they would like their toast.
The mission statement for St John of God, Halswell is "To create an environment where people living with a disability are creating opportunities to live and participate in life”. This is not just some glossy brochure spin. At St John of God, they are clearly "walking the talk".