From Touchstone by Sophie Parish
A valiant South Auckland church initiative that provides social services and support to people in need is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Friendship House He Whare Tangata is in the heart of Manukau City.
It was established in 1976, when enthusiasm for the ecumenical movement was at its peak.
The six mainline churches – Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Salvation Army, Baptist and Anglican – that established Friendship House saw it as a way to create positive change in the community.
Church historian Allan Davidson has written that Friendship House was a bold experiment at practical ministry, outreach and community service. It was created as a shop-front ministry located where people work and shop every day of the week. Chief executive Neil Denney says the mission statement of Friendship House is ‘Empowering positive change’ and its principles are aroha, compassion, generosity and hospitality. It is committed to Christ’s example and seeks to demonstrate discernment, understanding and kindness in its work.
Friendship House supports people in their own spirituality and tries to show consideration for the diverse cultures and ethnic groups in the Manukau community. “We offer a range of services including non-violence courses, counselling, a low-cost healthy café, and a drop-in centre. We are committed to working with the community to stop domestic violence and build strong families by teaching life skills.”
Neil took over as CEO of Friendship House last October, and he says it has been like going into mission. Chair of Friendship House’s board Robyn McCulloch says one of the Board’s current priorities is to make Friendship House more sustainable. “We are financed by donations, government funding and community support. We hope to fund more programs and services to meet the growing needs of the South Auckland community and to become less reliant on government funding,” she says.
Friendship House began life as a drop-in centre 40 years ago, and Neil says there have been many programmes over the years, including support groups for young mothers and the elderly. “More recently we are seeing an increase in the number of people who come to us for assistance because of poverty and related issues such as domestic violence, food insecurity, homelessness and health issues.
There is growing inequity in the social landscape and we see this playing out in all domains of life,” he says. By partnering with political leaders, government agencies and churches, Friendship House provides resources and tailors services for people struggling in the community.
One of its current initiatives is ‘Living without Violence’ courses, which help people find alternatives to domestic violence. “We run 11 Living without Violence courses each week for around 240 men. We have Samoan and Tongan language classes, which reflects the diversity of our community. “Our social work and counselling services ensure that women and children have plans in place to keep them safe from domestic violence,” Neil says.
Church leaders meet with Friendship House members once a month to discuss their initiatives and other issues. Incoming Methodist Church of NZ president Rev Prince Devanandan served on the Friendship House board of directors for eight years and his position has now come vacant.
Can you help? Robyn says they are seeking expressions of interest to fill the Methodist trustee position on the Board as Prince moves into his new role as MCNZ president.
On August 31st Friendship House He Whare Tangata will celebrate its 40th anniversary.
To donate or find out more about Friendship House or for details on the vacant Board position visit the website friendshiphouse.org or phone 09 262 2322. CVs can be sent to Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Robyn at INSIDE email@example.com Friendship House provides non-violence courses, counselling, and a low-cost café in Manukau City