SOUTHLAND’S Koha Kai is another step closer to rolling out its successful and innovative programme nationwide, after a visit from Minister for Youth, Whanau Ora and Community and Voluntary Sector Peeni Henare yesterday.
During his orientation tour, Mr Henare visited Te Wharekura O Arowhenua school and Koha Kai’s commercial kitchen in South City to see the operation in action.
Koha Kai project lead Janice Lee said the purpose of the Minister’s visit was to observe the Koha Kai model.
It was her “dream” for the programme to be run nationwide, but that was dependent on securing government funding, she said.
“This is the first step.
“Finally they are starting to talk about us in Wellington, which is wonderful.”
Koha Kai, a social enterprise charity, offers people aged 18 and over isolated by disability the opportunity to learn hospitality and horticultural skills and a pathway to employment through its Lunches in Schools Programme, preparing lunches for school children in Invercargill’s low decile schools, and its Community Gardens Programme.
Mrs Lee said Mr Henare’s visit was initiated by Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu pourarahi (chief executive) Helen Leahy.
Te Putahitanga is a Whanau Ora commissioning agency which works with whanau in the South Island, matching the needs and aspirations of whanau with initiatives which assist them to increase their capability.
Whanau Ora is an innovative whanau-centred approach to supporting whanau well-being and development.
Ms Leahy said Koha Kai “ticked all the boxes” as a Whanau Ora initiative.
“We believe they are doing something which is positive and outstanding in terms of working directly with people with disabilities… assisting them to be living fully in society.
“They are gaining employment and living healthy lifestyles, making friends, earning their own income and the community being able to see and appreciate the relationship, and value the catering company in a purely commercial sense,” she said.
“We are just so excited [Mr Henare] has taken up our recommendation.”
Mr Henare said Koha Kai was one of the social enterprises unique to New Zealand.
“This is a good model driven by the community. We are visiting the regions because we can’t make good decisions without talking to the people who live in the communities that we serve. It is important to come here and see the good work that is happening and make sure that we are there to help.”
These visits were invaluable, he said.
“The stories that are told to us aren’t just the problems, but also the opportunities. My job is to get back to Wellington, share it with my colleagues who have a relevant association to the work that is being done here and that are able to work together to support good initiatives like Koha Kai.”