Little is known about the work that goes on at Hohepa Hawke’s Bay. I spoke to the team there to find out just what it is they are all about.
Living a full life is something we may take for granted or not truly understand, but for the residents at Hohepa Hawke’s Bay, it is something they may not have ever achieved before coming to live there.
Hohepa Hawke’s Bay is a community for children and adults who have intellectual disabilities. Through living, working and taking an active part in community life alongside co-workers, residents grow to experience satisfying lives with as much independence as possible.
General manager at Hohepa Hawke’s Bay Andy White said Hohepa Hawkes Bay “gives a restart to life for some kids”.
“‘Every life fully lived’ is our motto, it is about a sense of worth as a human being. For us that is first and foremost the life of residents and service users, that is the motto of Hohepa Hawke’s Bay.”
Rudolf Steiner’s idea of the wellbeing of the whole person – body, soul and spirit, are the foundation of what happens within Hohepa. It is this understanding of the human being that forms Hohepa’s unique approach to working with people with disabilities.
Children come from all parts of New Zealand to the school at Poriati. A roll of 40 students means it is near capacity with a high demand for places.
A new Hohepa in Kapiti is in the early stages and will allow more intellectually disabled New Zealanders to fully live their life.
The school is in the process of working with the Ministry of Education to become a public school and if successful, the school attendance fee could be almost fully removed, lifting a burden for some families.
“The families are not choosing a better education, they are coming because their child is very difficult to live with or work with, so they seek a residential placement.
“Quite often these are children who have not been in schools for a length of time because the schools have not been able to cope,” said Mr White.
Hohepa Hawke’s Bay is spread over 50 acres of pasture and gardens at Clive and a further 30 acres in Poraiti where the school and children’s homes are.
What was once insignificant land is now lush pasture or gardens that have been biodynamically farmed for close to 60 years.
Farm manager Grant Hughes defines this as “a spiritual, ethical, ecological approach” to agriculture which is similar to other organic methods.
“It uses manures and composts and excludes the use of harmful artificial chemicals on soil and plants.”
The site has had a Demeter certification for over 50 years, which Mr White says “you don’t find in many places.”
This certification is a national standard of maintaining the way the land is used and the whole environment is treated without fertilisers by using other organic and bio dynamic processes.
Business partnerships manager Neil Kirton said: “Hohepa has always had a very strong focus on involving people with intellectual disabilities in work. It has therapeutic values and develops the individual”.
In spirit of this, Hohepa is working closely with the farming community, tangata whenua, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Department of Conservation and other landowners throughout the region in undertaking environmental protection work.
This allows people with intellectual disabilities to participate in paid and voluntary conservation work.
Mr White said that some residents are now able to step up in the roles that were originally had contractors doing the work, for example the lawn mowing.
“I think they have a future of going out and working out in other places of doing the same thing so they are part of that bigger community. That is where the environmental tree planting has come in,” he said.
Hohepa Hawke’s Bay is involved in the already established Maraetotara Stream Restoration Project. Residents and service users are taking part in planting 5,500 native trees at the site.
“They are flat out planting trees and they are really loving it. Just talking to them about how many trees they have planted and getting paid this week, it is just a great move,” said Mr White.
Alongside this, Hohepa Hawke’s Bay is beginning the Lower Taipo Stream Restoration Project at the Ahuriri estuary in Poriati, in conjunction with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.
This project looks to restore a large area of land reclaimed due to the 1931 Napier Earthquake.
“Through working on the land, people with intellectual disabilities can grow to experience satisfying and healthy lives, achieving as much independence as possible through their work,” said Mr Kirton.
The expansion of Hohepa Hawke’s Bay’s award-winning biodynamic cheese range is another way the people of Hohepa can gather work experience.
The students are very involved in the packaging and labelling of the cheese where possible including the new blue cheese which has had a “really positive” response from initial taste testers.
Mr White said staff at Hohepa Hawke’s Bay have certainly noticed service users valuing the fact that they have a job and are earning some money. This brings about many benefits for them.
“Self-esteem is the biggest one. Just to hear them say… ‘I have a job now’. They have always had a job here but it is a job like other people so it’s that sense of being like others.
“I think another important part is the whole concept of being a part of society so they are not in a sheltered location, tucked away. It is another part of their life fulfilment of being able to have a life like their brothers, sisters, parents and other people around them,” said Mr White.
Daily work programmes are a part of the adult community life at Hohepa and involves the residents using skills for weaving, felt making, woodwork, candle making, farming and gardening.
Mr White says the daily work is about making a contribution and participating in a meaningful way.
“Learning the skills of working alongside others and having a work task they are responsible for is all part of developing their capability that will enable them to go beyond Hohepa and either do voluntary work or work place experience.”