Every time I visit St Marks, I am pleasantly surprised with the way the Centre continues to develop. This year several partnerships have been forged which demonstrate how St Marks is reaching out to benefit the Marlborough Community in general as well as the St Marks residents when they complete their programme. You will read about the Whanau Support Programme and the Housing First collaboration.
The holistic welfare of the residents and staff are well catered for, as is demonstrated by the Art in Wellbeing participation.
We have stories from two ex-residents; one who wrote his story just before he graduated and one who has been four year’s clean. A great achievement!
St Marks is a Community which is constantly evolving!
The reason our Staff come to work is to be a catalyst for change for the Residents who step through our doors and as a Board we would like to make the time they spend with us as valuable as it could possibly be. It is not easy having to re-evaluate life decisions (some of which may go back many years).
As a Board at St Marks we set out to ensure that our facility continues to operate smoothly and ensure that residents are able to face difficult decisions with support, care & compassion from those around them.
It is also true that the Board has to look to the future and not just maintain our facilities. Over the last several years we have opened the Koru Room, carried out landscaping around the property, painted & decorated the office building and created a new reception area. This is all really good stuff, and this makes the work areas for our staff better but also with new technology in our computer system & WIFI (for staff use) we are able to be more efficient in the "Back Office" functions of the organisation. This has got the place looking great & I would like to say a "Big Thank You" to our Manager Peter and our hard-working staff!
Equally though I need to recognise the work done by our residents as they change their lives for the good but also assist with the ongoing cleanliness & tidiness of the property. Thank you.
The Board is currently working through several longer-term plans and I hope to share more about this with you in our next Newsletter.
Thank You All for Your Support.
PETER RIJHNEN'S UPDATE
St Marks has provided three Brief drink intervention programmes so far this year-in Greymouth, Westport and Nelson. There was good feedback from Corrections staff and by the participants.
St Marks has implemented a Continuing Care Group. This new programme meets fortnightly and provides for clients who have been in the programme. It is very inspirational to see how the Recovery Capital is growing in Blenheim.
Housing First collaboration. This new initiative is managed by Christchurch Methodist Mission in partnership with St Marks, Gateway Housing Trust and Maataa Waka. This collaboration is aimed at ending homelessness in Blenheim by 2021. A pamphlet is being developed and will be circulated as soon as it is finalised.
The Service will support people for at least two years who are street sleeping or who are chronically homeless with high and complex needs. Housing First aims to support people into stable long-term housing of their choice. It is expected that over a four-year period at least 80% of participants will still be in continuous housing, attaining their own personal goals and reporting other positive changes in their lives. For Further information please call 0800 432 536.
The clients at St Marks did a terrific job of building a raised vegetable garden. This is part of the on-going utilisation of the grounds around the buildings. A further recent addition was a Kaffir Lime Tree, donated by the grateful parents of a successful graduate.
St Marks continues to receive enquiries regarding private clients. In May there were two privately funded clients in residence.
The Cutting Edge Conference in September 2019 will be attended by three staff members and a Board member. In addition, staff have attended external workshops and visiting tutors have come to the Centre. Some training has included the residents such as Hep C education and Trauma Informed Care sessions.
THIS EDITION’S QUOTE
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau
INTRODUCING STAFF MEMBER
Rebecca (known affectionately to all at St Marks as “Bex”) leads a double life. During the day she is the energetic, interactive and easy-going administrator/receptionist at St Marks, answering phones, dealing with staff and clients. After work, she works on the family farm – 30 acres in Wairau Valley. Her aim is to be as self-sufficient as possible and hunting and fishing are often on the agenda.
Bex was brought up in Murchison and shifted to Blenheim when she was 15. Her previous employment, prior to joining St Marks, was as a front-line worker at Work and Income and her experience and problem-solving skills have served her well in her present role. As well as being able to assist clients through difficulties they may have with the WINZ, she was instrumental in arranging for the Work and Income staff to visit St Marks, see a power-point presentation and engage in a group discussion with St Marks clients over afternoon tea. A comment from the WINZ staff that they were amazed by the intensity of the programme acknowledged the programme St Marks has implemented.
A staff comment that Rebecca’s passion for people and her holistic view does much to enhance our Therapeutic Community is endorsed by the residents who pay tribute to the effort that she puts into making them feel “at home” when they first arrive.
Rebecca’s comment is “this is one of my most favourite and enjoyable jobs I have ever had in my life.” This is a position where she can indulge her passion for linking parts of the Community, and she even enjoys auditing the files.
ART IN THE DINING ROOM
Those who are lucky enough to visit St Marks cannot fail to have been impressed with the four colourful and arresting paintings in the dining room.
The story of how they came to be there began when Caroline della Porta (Art Facilitator) and Care Marlborough were preparing for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018. The theme they chose was The Art of Wellbeing. Two months before the Week, Care Marlborough contacted all health agencies in Marlborough inviting them to use art as a way to connect and inspire.
St Marks accepted the invitation and all staff and residents decided to work together, regarding this as an opportunity to bond together and have fun. Thirty participants split into 4 teams.
Caroline brought in four prepared and primed boards. Each team had three colours to work with, each team had to choose a word which they regarded really reflected St Marks standards. They also had to choose a style in which the word was to be printed, the style fitting the value of the word.
The teams were instructed in brush work, finger painting and stencilling. Caroline recalls that there was enthusiastic conversation happening while the teams worked, reflecting their enjoyment in the exercise.
At the second workshop, held after the pictures had dried, metallic edging was applied, the words were printed in the agreed style, blown up on the photocopier and then stencilled onto the picture. Glitter was applied to the stencilled-on word.
The four works of art were on display at Marlborough Art Society during the Week and then donated to St Marks. They certainly brighten up the Dining Room and are a great conversation piece.
One team chose to stencil their word on backwards. Their reason was that they wanted the viewer to see Compassion from the other side. “Looking through Compassion”
THIS MONTH’S RECIPE:
With the brief Choko season now in full swing, it seemed a good time to look at this unusual vegetable.
1 onion chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 chicken stock cubes
1 ½ cups water
Salt to taste.
Peel and seed Chokos and slice into fairly thin slices. Brown slices in a little oil.
Lift out Choko slices with a slotted spoon and transfer to a medium-sized saucepan.
Lightly brown onion in remaining oil. Stir in curry powder and cook for a minute or two.
Crumble in stock cubes.
Remove from heat, add water, stir, then pour over Chokos. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until Chokos are tender. Cool.
Blend until smooth; season with salt if necessary. Reheat, adding more water if mixture is too thick, and serve.
Regular visitors will know those generous volunteers who regularly give their time to provide needed services to assist with the smooth operation that is St Marks.
Judy, who has been at St Marks for over 6 years assisting with administrative duties, takes residents to their appointments and even helps with the shopping. Nicole for the last three years has assisted residents prepare their CVs, arranges guest speakers each week and helps with the clinical auditing and Corey the builder who added the porch on to the Koru administration building and the deck on the Utilities Room. Corey is also the “go to” person for maintenance work.
Nicolette Prendergast (St Marks’ ex-neighbour who came to visit and has provided assistance ever since) is the Marlborough Labour Coordinator for Wine Marlborough has been invaluable in assisting residents find employment after their graduation. Nicolette makes frequent visits to St Marks and regularly attends the Volunteers’ lunch.
Now FOCUS has joined the list of those who provide a possible transition for graduates. Erina Macdonald has been the Assistant Manager for the past ten months. She has a passion for pastoral work and came back to her hometown of Blenheim from a background of pastoral work. Her interest in reaching out to those who have addiction or mental health issues is her motivation to connect with St Marks as well as Community Probation and Ministry of Social Development.
Erina explained that she will try to match workers with supervisors who will be good role models for the workers. The policy is to mix local and RSE workers so that each get a better appreciation of each other’s values.
Erina says viticulture is not a job preference for everyone but as her primary role is the provision of pastoral care, she will try to help them resolve issues. She says, “We like to think we can empower people”.
It is people and organisations like these who contribute to St Marks holistic success.
Reuben was a client at St Marks on the verge of completing a 15-week course. He volunteered to discuss his time before and while at St Marks and his aspirations for his future. His story is as follows:
I arrived at St Marks on 28th March 2019 having been granted parole with a special condition that I complete a 15 week programme here. I had been sentenced to prison for supply of methamphetamines and other drug related charges. My time in prison did not altogether go smoothly as in my first year I was a gang prospect and picked up a number of internal charges. However, when I came before the Parole Board after having served a year in prison, I was refused parole and advised to drop the gang affiliation and to undergo a number of rehabilitation courses. I took that advice and so my second request to the Parole Board was successful.
I had heard good things about St Marks from 2 inmates who were also undergoing the Drug Treatment Unit and decided this is the course I wanted to undergo. It also had the advantage that it was in the South Island, away from previous associates and close to family. I am lucky to have a supportive family.
I came to St Marks having passed through the DTU and the Medium Intensity Rehabilitation programme, believing that my drug and alcohol issues were behind me. It was therefore a shock to learn that I needed to look deeper into myself to find the reasons for my behaviour. I had suffered bullying all my school days, right from kindergarten and I was cautious around people and for the first two weeks I was very uncomfortable being in such proximity to people, as I was at St Marks. The staff made the transition as easy as possible- even going to the supermarket and other places downtown with me.
Richard Feather is my 1:1. He is my counsellor and facilitator. I believe he has helped the community and myself immensely and I believe he deserves a big increase in wages for what he does for the community!
I now feel at peace with myself. I am more self-aware and can communicate more effectively, for instance I now appreciate that whereas appropriate cheekiness is a useful communication tool, overuse sets up a barrier between me and others. When I came to St Marks, I deleted my old Facebook contacts and now only have St Marks and family contacts. I am pleased that I have bridged the gap between my parents and myself and we can now talk.
I was chosen to be the Community coordinator between residents and staff and appreciate the trust placed in me in this role. St Marks has helped me get a driver’s licence and I am shortly to sit my full one. I have left my old gang affiliates behind me and am settling in Nelson. I have completed a pre apprenticeship course in automotive fitting, welding and machining and will be looking for a career in that industry.
I believe that if the Parole Board had released me without the St Marks special condition I would be back in jail by now, but I now have the skills to be a good member of society and to go through life being positive, rather than negative. I have forged bonds that will help me throughout my life.
Growing up as a kid in Hawkes Bay, I never had aspirations to be a homeless, drug addict, alcoholic. Who does? But there I was, arriving at St Marks in October 2015 still shaky from withdrawal, and knowing that this would be my last chance at life.
I honestly had no friendly place to go.
For over a year I had pretty much been unemployable, constantly sick, and the worst kind of company, since was usually intoxicated by 10am. Yet, more tragically - I had also lost the trust and respect of my family and friends. They had given up on me a long time ago, I was pretty sure they thought I was on my way to an early grave. To be honest I was dead certain of that also.
So, I had no idea what to expect when I walked through those doors at St Marks on that warm Spring day. I remember being pretty sick both physically and mentally. And terrified.
Yet what followed was four months of what can best be described as an upheaval of everything I had come to believe – namely those beliefs that I was a worthless person, incapable of love or doing anything with my life.
Behind those doors at St Marks I was introduced to a long-lost feeling of joy, pride, respect for myself and others, as well as a feeling I had never much had before: gratitude.
When I left St Marks, I started life with that foundation of gratitude – because I was lucky to be alive and have the chance to start over again.
Today, I believe my life has changed forever. I am a successful full-time business owner and have forged new bonds long-lasting with my family and friends (who now look up to me as an inspiration). And I also managed to go back to school and pick up a post-grad degree along the way (a PhD in fact, yes, I am a Doctor now).
More auspiciously, this July I celebrate four years of sobriety. I seriously believe that without St Marks I wouldn’t be alive today. This little haven in Marlborough saves lives. It not only saved mine but gave me a better one to live.
If you would like to become a friend or volunteer at St Marks and would like more information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to make a donation to St Marks either post your cheque with your contact details to the:
ADMINISTRATOR ST MARKS SOCIETY 61 MAIN STREET BLENHEIM
Or if you would prefer to pay by Automatic Payment or Internet Banking our bank details are:
St Marks Society 12-3493-0018674-00. Please insert your name as the reference. A receipt will be issued for all donations and will be emailed to you.
NB. DONATIONS of $5.00 and OVER are TAX DEDUCTIBLE.