Te Whai Sages Whānau Support

Written by Te Whai Sage Coordinator, Ester Bassett   

Te Whai Sages Whānau Support is a service coordinated by Te Whai Community Trust and trained community volunteers. The volunteers are able to offer time each week to be with families who need a little extra support, often due to one or more children experiencing high needs, or complex family circumstances.

The beauty of these relationships, as described by one of our volunteers, is that "it is not all give, we find it fulfilling to have them in our lives." As a volunteer who also gives time to Mangawhai Playgroups, Elizabeth* was matched with a family with a high needs child. Having had personal experience in their own family, and of feeling quite isolated from others by their different needs, Elizabeth felt motivated to offer individual input and she was matched with the family as a Te Whai Sage.

After a few years the structure of input has changed as the relationship has developed. What was initially about an hour a week can now be 4 hours of time with now familiar children. The connection has become more like a grandparent role, with easy communication, and genuine care and appreciation for one another. 

What remains is the backstop of the Te Whai Sage Whānau Support agreed boundaries. This can be updated at any time but it outlines what Elizabeth is able to offer and makes clear the expectations on either side. There is also the Te Whai Sage coordinator, a counsellor and a Social Worker who can be called on for extra support, if circumstances change, or to find an alternative if the match isn't quite right.

Boundaries, confidentiality, and how to manage complex situations is covered in a one day training session run by Te Whai. Regular get togethers with scheduled training throughout the year are also available for volunteers.

I asked what one offering Elizabeth would like to make to anyone thinking of becoming a Te Whai Sage, "if you have a few hours a week the difference you can make to someone's life is massive. Visiting through Te Whai has the advantage of training and support through the match to ensure the relationship works. You won't regret it.”

*Sage name changed for confidentiality.