Parks and playgrounds  |  21 Dec 2021

A new volunteer programme for men who are supported by the City Mission - either through accommodation or the provision of food and self-care facilities - aims to provide regular, meaningful work opportunities.

Each Tuesday morning volunteers head out in one of the Mission vans to spend time working alongside a Christchurch City Council park ranger.

It’s a partnership between the Council, City Mission and Gap Filler’s Polite Force, which promotes positive social interactions within the community.

Trent Hiles is the Polite Force officer who initiated the trial programme. He says the goal is to provide positive social connections in a managed work environment.

“It’s an opportunity for those who might not have a chance to work in a conventional 9-to-5 manner. Some of these men are unlikely to return to regular work for a variety of reasons but they all want to keep busy and be useful.

“Some are in a state of transition, trying to find their feet and they’re looking for meaningful ways to occupy their time.  I pick them up and I’m there to help out but it’s the park rangers who make it happen - they are fantastic at connecting with and working alongside the men.

“At the end of the session they feel like they’ve achieved something – there’s that sense of satisfaction we all look for in a job. It’s also a way to potentially activate a return to the workforce for some.”

So far the men have helped to build picnic tables and park benches at the Groynes and cleared netting from around young trees and shrubs on the Port Hills.

They've also been to the Rongoā Māori garden (Rongoā Māori is a traditional healing system) at Te Waoku Kapuka Styx Reserve on Marshland Road where they spent the morning weeding and mulching.

Council Manager of Parks Programmes and Partnerships Kate Russell says the trial is an excellent example of Council staff working in conjunction with the community.

“Our Community Partnership Programme aims to boost community-led action in the city’s green spaces and this initiative fits into that really well. It offers a chance for people to get together in a meaningful way and achieve something valuable.”

While the trial is still in its early days, Mr Hiles hopes to eventually have a regular half or full day slot where the men can work in a specific area without supervision.