By John Keast
Alice Wright remembers seeing her first pay in the bank and thinking she could pay the rent, the bills, and be able to get a coffee.
It was her first job in 15 years, and she thanks the encouraging prod she got from Alethea Ward, a work focus case manager at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).
Alice, MSD staff, and Manuel Taylor joined Ashburton mayor Donna Favel for a cuppa and to share their work and success stories – Alice’s job, tying down apple trees in an Ashburton orchard, and Manuel’s award for perseverance and determination on a six-week Limited Service Volunteer course (LSV) programme run by the Defence Force at Burnham.
“It was tough,” said Manuel, “but I pulled through.”
He is now doing the Red Shirt community programme at The Warehouse – and loving it.
In it, he is taken through all aspects of The Warehouse operation.
Mrs Favel said MSD regional manager John Henderson had told her about success stories, and she said those sorts of stories should be shared.
Marie Ward, Ashburton MSD service centre manager, said she loved to tell the success stories.
Alice said working was empowering – and she can’t get enough of it.
“I have a 16 and a 19-year-old son and they were looking at me and saying ‘where to from here, mum’.
“I get up and I’m providing. I pay the rent now, it’s the most empowering thing I have done.”
Alice said she was egged on by MSD staff, then she heard about a job at the orchard and got in touch.
“I start at 7.30 and finish at 2.30. I got my son a job there, too. My boss is awesome.
“I’m tying trees down and teaching them to grow (espaliering).”
Alice said she was looking for 13 months.
“I looked at cashie jobs but I had to ring Winz about how much I earned as I was on a benefit.”
She said, before she found work, she had no confidence.
Now she has plenty.
Being on a benefit, she said, was no fun.
“You don’t go out because you don’t have any money. It was the stigma of being a solo mum on a benefit.”
When she got her first pay, she was excited – and she thanked her parents for their support.
Now the household is a well-oiled machine, with everyone chipping in with the household jobs.
Manuel said he liked it at The Warehouse – and the car-park has never been cleaner.
He said when he got the warrant officer’s award for perseverance and determination, he almost burst into tears.
The first week, he said, was tough.
But now he has advice for anyone thinking about the six-week course.
“I say go for it.”
Marie Ward said MSD had several support programmes that could offer wage subsidies and ongoing training.
She encouraged employers to get in touch to get details.
Some 70 per cent of employers who took on subsidised staff kept them on.
The staff said they had good people, and sometimes, as Alice and Manuel had shown, they just needed a break.