When you need support and counselling, finding the right place to go can be a challenge. For folks in Wairarapa there’s a place where there’s always a welcoming smile and professional counsellors to meet with.
For over twenty years the team at ChangeAbility have been providing a range of affordable counselling, programmes and services to the Wairarapa community – originally under two separate organisations – Stopping Violence Services Wairarapa and Wairarapa Community Counselling. Two years ago, they merged and ChangeAbility Inc. was established.
In late 2017 the opportunity arose for ChangeAbility to buy the former Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries building on Victoria Street and establish a new base. Funding from a range of sources, including Eastern and Central Community Trust, enabled the purchase and renovation of the building, which now has two large meeting rooms, nine counselling rooms, and an administration and reception area.
After living in the building for almost a year, they realised they needed additional funding to replace part of the old roofing iron, and install heat pumps to heat the building more efficiently, and ECCT came through with $30,000 towards those costs.
“It made great financial sense for us to own the building,” says office manager Liat Gush. “The rent on our previous building was steadily increasing, and a lot of financial planning went into ensuring we were making the right move. The savings made through not having rental expenses even after overheads have been taken into account, mean that more of our financial resources are able to be directed toward seeing clients. As an incorporated society, we feel very lucky and privileged to be in such a wonderful building which, in essence, belongs to the community.”
“When rooms are not in use they are made available to other community groups to host meetings, trainings, and to meet their clients, including Te Whanau o Te Maungarongo, who travel from the Hutt each week to provide kaupapa Māori family violence services.”
Changeability works with people and families across a range of situations, from personal counselling to a holistic wraparound service for families experiencing family violence. They have 12 part-time counsellors, including a social worker who coordinates the support families may need, from sourcing food parcels to walking alongside people to understand court procedures and provide assistance in obtaining protection orders.
Approximately 50% of Changeability’s family violence work is referred through government agencies, and it is able to offer subsidised counselling for self-referring clients.
“Family violence is a specialised field, and our counsellors and facilitators of programmes are highly trained and experienced in working with families and individuals who are affected by violence and abuse,” she says. “We also work closely with other social agencies in the region – we’re known as the agency to send people to.”
They receive almost 600 referrals each year. “We do get pretty busy, but as a community agency, we aim to meet the demand and not turn anyone away if they are not able to financially contribute to the cost of counselling,” says Liat. “There is such a diversity in how organisations work, and we have confidence that our model works well for our community.”