The ping-pong of table tennis balls bouncing back and forth is one of the many welcoming sounds people are greeted with upon entering the Welcome Bay Community Centre (WBCC).
Situated at 242 Welcome Bay Road, the community hub is in the centre of the village and well-utilised by locals.
But WBCC is at the heart of Welcome Bay in more ways than one.
From social table tennis groups, to youth music production workshops, to counselling services, it is a valuable resource that enriches its community.
Manager, Sacha Harwood, says that the WBCC’s mission is to create a sense of belonging and engagement within the community.
“We want them to know that they are taonga (precious), that they are valued.”
The centre aims to support and engage people through its range of services. By listening to community voice, it has been able to cater to specific needs, designing targeted programmes and offering responsive services.
Some of the free services include youth groups, budgeting advice through Bay Financial Mentors, fitness classes, social work and advocacy support, referral services, wellbeing and support groups, and counselling. Free clothing is available every Wednesday, and food parcels are given out on Thursdays with kai supplied by Good Neighbour.
Manager, Sacha Harwood, in the centre's kitchen helping with food parcels
Harwood explains that recently there has been a particular focus on family wellness, women’s wellness, and mental wellbeing, as these topics have been requested by locals. Kawakawa balm-making workshops have been popular and there are more Kaupapa programmes to come.
In response to these requests, the centre is working with The Incredible Years parenting programme to offer a comprehensive 14-week course starting at the end of July. It explores child development and behaviour and equips parents with the skills to respond to these behaviours or developmental stages positively.
Another product of community voice is the Sustain programme. This course focuses on sustainability – not only in growing food, but in sustaining oneself emotionally and financially.
Harwood explains: “It’s tricky out there, which is why we started Sustain – to give people a few more tips and tricks to cope with the challenges they are facing with the rising cost of living.
“We’re focusing on equipping people with the skills to manage emotional regulation, the challenges of parenting, and the day-to-day stresses that just kind of pile up.”
Adults aren’t the only people the community centre caters to.
The Rangatahi Kai Club, a cooking course for youth aged 10-16, has been popular since its inception in October 2021. The club teaches kids essential cooking skills, while also offering opportunities for exercise and mentoring.
Harwood says that the goal with offering a range of programmes is to educate and empower people so they can thrive.
“We are trying to be the fence at the top, rather than the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff”, Harwood says.
“We want to equip people with the skills and support to cope with life’s challenges.”
TECT has supported WBCC’s day-to-day running with $35,000 in funding towards the centre’s operational costs, funding which Harwood says they are relieved to have received.
“We are so grateful for TECT’s funding of our operational costs because it keeps us being able to do what we do.
“Without the staff and people who provide services, we wouldn’t be able to run the programmes and offer the support that we do to the community. Ultimately, having staff in the centre for people to walk in and connect with is vital, as accessing people is always our biggest challenge.”
Harwood hopes to grow the centre further in the future, including offering a wider variety of services, creating opportunity for industry groups to network and collaborate, and increasing the counselling services to keep up with demand.
To learn more about the Welcome Bay Community Centre, visit https://www.welcomebay.org.nz/