“I myself grew up in an extremely poor family – I had eight siblings – so I’ve lived it and breathed it and I think that’s the main reason I do this job. I wanted to make a difference and use the life experiences I’ve had to help other people claw themselves out of their circumstances.”
When COVID-19 first hit, Mangere Budgeting Services Trust was classed as an essential service, and the need for food parcels for their community went through the roof. “Throughout the [first] eight-week period of lockdown, we did just under 17,000 food parcels,” Darryl says.
Staff in full PPE were sourcing and packaging food. The need was so great Darryl put a call-out on Facebook for volunteers. With Auckland Airport nearby, they had a large number of staff from Air New Zealand helping out – some of whom, after losing their jobs, have continued to volunteer.
Darryl says because there hasn’t always been a lot of empathy for the poor he found the support they have received especially heartening. He believes COVID-19 has meant people are now thinking more about vulnerable communities.
During the first lockdown, he says people got to see something they hadn’t seen here before – “hundreds and hundreds of people queuing up for food, something we normally only see in third world countries. We’d never seen food insecurity like that before in New Zealand”.
With a staff of 16 and up to 70 volunteers at one time, the company has had to look after not only a community in need but their workers on the front line. Luckily, Darryl says, they’ve always prioritised wellbeing in the workplace so they had a great foundation to build on.
“We’re massively into manaakitanga – I’m a big believer that if you don’t look after yourself well, you can’t give help to others.”
Breaks, food and counselling are some of the pillars that Mangere Budgeting Services Trust worked and continue to work with. The whole team has sat down for a roast lunch every day, for example – shutting the doors for half an hour so they can recharge. People have been sent home early whenever they have needed it, and have been encouraged to access the in-house counselling service.
The team have also employed tools like mindfulness and meditation together, as well as going out for walks or exercise when necessary. By looking after their own mental health, Darryl says they have been able to do the important work for the community. “You can’t help but carry people’s sadness and woes, which is why we introduced a counselling service – we wanted people to be able to access a range of tools under one whare.”
The biggest lesson that Darryl and team use, both for themselves and for their clients, is that “there’s no shame / whakama in putting your hand up and asking for help”.
It’s the message he’s most proud of and the reason he thinks they’re able to reach so many people.
“I don’t believe you can give empowerment to other people but I do believe that through nurture and care, you can help build skills and that helps rebuild people. We see broken people come in every day, and they walk in slouched. Together we are making a difference for those we serve!”
For the latest advice on how managers can create safe, calm and connected workplaces throughout the COVID pandemic and beyond, visit https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/getting-through-together/workplace-wellbeing/ for the Mental Health Foundation’s tools and resources.
Photo: Shane Wenzlick via Stuff.co.nz