The Seasons for Growth story in Taranaki, like all stories, has its own twists and turns and magic moments.
We all know grief and loss is a challenge for everyone, especially for our children and youth. To help children cope with their emotions during the changes that grief and loss brings, the Seasons for Growth programme provides support, resources and strategies in small facilitated group sessions across Taranaki.
The history of Seasons for Growth started in Taranaki in 2003 when a trained Seasons facilitator, Diana Lawrence, moved to New Plymouth from the Hawkes Bay. At the time the programme was known as Growing Through Grief and Debbie Garrett, then vicar of St Chad’s Anglican Church in Westown, was keen to see the programme start in the region. The common goal of these changemakers brought Debbie and Diana together and soon the process to establish Seasons in New Plymouth was underway. In mid-2004, the first companions were trained and the first programmes began.
During this time the programme was dependent on Anglican Parishes deciding to fund and support a coordinator, and all the programme expenses and management were provided by a local support committee. Groups were also held in schools in New Plymouth and some in Waitara, Okato, Inglewood and Lepperton. As demand for the programme grew, the pressure on parishes also grew.
BAF responded to this challenge and opportunity as it could see the need for its skills as a catalyst for growth and change. From 2006 BAF began providing support to the Seasons New Plymouth programme, especially with funding applications and governance guidance.
In 2008 the programme expanded with the appointment of Judy Wood by the Local Support Committee of Holy Trinity, Stratford, as the coordinator for Central Taranaki. During the following years, several companions were trained, and groups were run in Stratford, Toko, Waitara, Hawera, Manaia, and even at a school south of Patea as the central programme spread to South Taranaki.
BAF helped evolve the management and governance structure to ensure the sustainability and increased reach of the programme. In 2014 a Seasons Taranaki Oversight Committee was formed including BAF representation, three coordinators and some regional representatives.
In 2016 Judy Wood moved from her role as Central Taranaki Coordinator to New Plymouth Coordinator with Tania Hanlon the new Central Taranaki Coordinator and Sharon Albrechtson appointed as a dedicated South Taranaki Coordinator. BAF had also started providing office space, IT support and access to shared vehicles as the programme had now become region wide.
In 2020, Covid-19 level red lockdown hit the country. The following two years presented many challenges including vaccine mandates and schools reluctant for outside visitors on site which impacted significantly on programme delivery.
BAF was able to successfully manage the programme through this difficult time and help support new strategies for delivery, including an adaptation of a programme that was delivered in Canterbury after the Earthquakes that supports children through natural disasters, including pandemics.
The Taranaki Seasons for Growth coordinators now offer:
In July 2022 a new bicultural dimension for the programme, Te Oaki, was launched, and BAF supported Judy Wood to be trained in delivering this aspect to companions to further uphold the Treaty of Waitangi and enhance support for tamariki.
The programmes now support over 200 children and young people each year. BAF remains committed to developing the programme and looks forward to continuing to grow this valuable service. BAF is proud that it could be a catalyst for the original changemakers driving this well needed programme to grow and shine in Taranaki – a truly magical moment in this story of change.
[pictured are volunteer companion Nola Hickey receiving her volunteer recognition award and Central Taranaki Coordinator Tania Hanlon]