A groundbreaking achievement


By Farida Master

The sod-turning ceremony was a very significant moment for the Eastgate Community Trust as members of the Ministry of Social Development, Ross Charitable Trust and Freemasons Charitable Trust along with parents and trustees were all there to witness the special event.

More than 20 years ago, it was a handful of concerned parents and professionals who set up the Eastgate Community Trust as a daytime facility for young adults with mild-to-moderate intellectual disability. There was nothing to keep them meaningfully occupied after they got out of the Pegasus unit at Pakuranga College and similar facilities.

Now two decades later, it was an emotional moment for parents to be there for the traditional groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of a new daytime facility, to be built next to the existing one.

The trust that was established to assist people with learning and intellectual disability from the ages of 18-64, and it currently has a client base of 38 with a daily limit of 20.

“We’ve had a long waiting list from young adults who want to access our services and several existing clients who would like to attend on more days,” says Felicity Bell, operations manager at the community trust.

The Eastgate Community Trust (not connected to the Eastgate Community Church) well illustrates the power of what ordinary people can achieve when they get together to work towards an extraordinary goal—that of maximising the potential of mentally disabled and enable them to participate in the community to the maximum extent possible.

Robert Welcome of Howick and District Freemason’s Charitable Trust with Felicity Bell operations manager Eastgate Community Trust turn the first sod. Times photo Farida Master

In 1999 it was former Manukau City Mayor Sir Barry Curtis, a patron of the trust, who arranged for the group to take over the tenancy of 427 Pakuranga Rd, a council property bordering Lloyd Elsmore Park.

The two dilapidated buildings were then upgraded by the trust and the grounds were cleared. Gradually a respite service began in response to the needs of families. This allows their young people to experience independent living in a flatting environment.

The transition/ respite service operates five nights a week and on the weekend.

Nettie Knetsch, chair of Eastgate Community Trust Board, says they have a wide range of daytime programmes for those with special needs.

“Our role is to assist in creating life skills and finding opportunities to increase their independence and to support community participation,” she says, as a van load of clients return from their activity-packed day out.