ME Family Services turns 25!
ME Family Services reached a new milestone last month, with the celebration of our 25th Anniversary. Located in Māngere East, our service was developed following the discovery of a baby, abandoned in a cardboard box in nearby Walter Massey Park in 1994. The original aim of the centre was to provide a local hub that people could easily access for wrap-around support.
The centre had humble beginnings in the school hall at Māngere East Primary, later moving to the old dental clinic. Founding members Peter Sykes (CEO) and Karen Matata (Early Childhood Centre Manager) are still with us today, but the service has grown considerably since those early years.
Today, ME Family Services provides social workers in schools (SWIS) to 14 primary and intermediate schools in Māngere (Manaaki Tangata), an Early Childhood Centre (licensed for 70 children), a community garden with outdoor kitchen and makerspace (Te Puna Oranga), community resource recovery operations and waste reduction support and education for our local board area, a Men’s Shed, as well as support for social design initiatives and micro-business development in our area. Our aim is to empower the people of Māngere to find the potential that is within themselves, and in this place, for a thriving, regenerative community.
Over 100 people joined us in celebration of our 25th Anniversary, including many local families whose lives have been touched by our service, through multiple generations. “I wouldn’t be where I am today, the person I am, or in the community and in the roles that I have today without the support of ME Family Services”, says Sarah Michelle Hansen-Vaeau (coach for the NZ Men’s netball team). “More and more, these sorts of places are a great necessity”, says local community gardener Yvonne Thomas. “They make people laugh, they make people well and they have the ability to make people belong”.
The celebration was held in our community garden space and was a zero waste affair. Food was served on banana leaf plates and food waste went straight into the worm farm. Real cups were used for drinks. Te Puna Oranga has been entirely constructed from neighbourhood waste, so our event was a great opportunity to showcase ideas for upcycling and re-purposing. The celebration included workshops on sewing reusable bags, making art from household recyclables, kumara harvesting and a tour of our Recovery Room, as well as a women's wellbeing session.
As an organisation, our focus on improving the health and wellbeing of our community now encompasses the whole ecosystem, including the people, water, land, air and other life forms we share this place with. Here’s to another 25 years of regeneration for our community!
Justine Skilling (Talking Rubbish, ME Family Services)
Stories from our families....
Robert Forsyth was a Board member with ME Family Services between 1993-2016. He has been living in the Mangere community for more than 50 years. His connection to MEFS started through Mangere East Primary and continued on in his association with our Men's Shed. Recently, our organisation was able to help him with resources and practical help after a house fire.
“Seeing the building go up, seeing the extension, the hard work that has gone into the centre and the people has been fantastic.”
Lauren Dixon has been living in Mangere for more than 6 years and started her connection with ME Family Services though a friend that connected her to our Early Childhood centre. Lauren finds our centre very supportive.
“It provides quality education and grows important life skills in our children”.
The Recovery Resource Room has also been very supportive in helping her and her family when needed.
“People help each other when they need help. There's a lot of laughter and fun at ECE.”
The connection for Huakaui started through Peter Sykes at Selwyn church. He has been living in Mangere for more than 22 years, since 1995. He believes the service has helped so many people in the community.
"I am thankful for the support given to our communities."
Judith Linton's connection with our centre started 25 years ago when we first opened. Judith has lived in Mangere her whole life. She came across our service through Karen Matata from our Early Childhood Centre. Judith explains how the service really helped her with housing and health during hard times.
"My best memories of ME Family Services are meeting Karen & Peter enjoying the Preschool."