IT can be tricky finding jobs for whānau not ready for traditional work but Richard Brown says if he can't find a job, he'll make one.
As work broker for Turanga Health's Vanessa Lowndes Centre for those with mental, physical or intellectual disabilities, Richard works with around a dozen whānau to help find and support them in work.
“It might only be for a few hours a week but that matters in terms of enriching their lives while they get to make a contribution,” he says. “But we do sometimes have to get a bit creative in finding that work.”
To that end, Turanga Health runs a car valet service that provides work for whānau; some do laundry for local schools; some might go out to pick fruit; while others are employed by cleaning contractors.
“As well as putting a bit of money in their pockets, being engaged in work gives our whānau mana and purpose, and that's something we all need.”
Richard's own employment history shows a clear path to Turanga Health's door, his work in roles like sports development, education and mentoring youth all focused on helping others be their very best.
And as he tells the VLC whānau, sometimes you just have to muck in, like he did working through the Covid-19 lockdown, helping Turanga Health deliver countless meals and thousands of “Covid kits”.
“Being part of that reminded me of why Turanga Health is such a great place to work,” he says. “It has this strong connection with the community that you really see in times of need.”
Outside of work, Richard is a sports nut who played at a high level in both rugby and league, and to this day runs the Tairāwhiti junior league because “if people don't get involved, these sports will die out”.
He's also dad to four children – from pēpi to near-teen – who he reckons keep him on his toes. Like him, they're all sporty. And though he is a blond-haired, blue-eyed Pakeha, his partner's role as a tutor in te reo Māori means all four are fluent speakers and are well versed in te ao Māori.
“That's just how we live, it's who we are as a whānau,” he says. “We love being together and doing things together. I just love spending time with my kids.”
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