As part of Hohepa Auckland’s 20th birthday celebrations

I have two daughters now living at Hohepa Auckland. Catriona the youngest had been living down in the Hawke’s Bay from the time she was 8 years old and Kay has been there since 1998.

Catriona used to fly home about every six weeks with her goldfish in a plastic bag to a very different life to the one she lead in Hawke’s Bay. Among the many things we weren’t used to were the blessings at mealtime and paintings done with wet paper- the carpet suffered- but we loved all the lovely paintings she brought home and the crafts. She made some amazing things while in Hawke’s Bay, including a stool and a lovely felted hat.

It was hard making the initial decision to send her down to Hawke’s Bay without the drama of the partings every six weeks but it did get better as she got older and the move to Auckland occurred in 1996 when she was 20.

At the time I was quite involved in the Parents Association and was briefly on the Hawke’s Bay Council of Management.

The Trust board was keen to start up in Auckland as there was a growing demand for adult accommodation in Hawke’s Bay and they now were required to provide residents with their own rooms.

Also around this time Bill Morris  and Russell Davis were in the process of setting up the Hohepa Foundation and money from the Foundation was used in the establishment of Hohepa Auckland.

Auckland parents were invited to a series of meetings to discuss the feasibility of starting a Hohepa in Auckland. John McGowan, Russell Davis and I looked at a number of properties around Helensville and Whenuapai.

A decision was pending on a property near Whenuapai when the Trust board was offered Christopher House in Titirangi. The Christopher House Trust was dissolving and the deed stated that it had to pass onto a likeminded organisation. The Christopher House Trust had an anthroposophical base.

The property was perfect and the Trust board took over Christopher House and the Ministry of Health agreed to transfer the residents funding. John McGowan who was chairman of the Trust board at that time asked Russell Davis and myself assist in the setting up of the house. The thought of having our daughter living in Auckland was extremely appealing.

Russell’s daughter Melanie was seconded to be caretaker and clean out the place while arrangements were made for permanent staff. The property consisted of Christopher House and a cottage – now name Lavender Cottage –  and the parcel of land that is now utilised as a garden and has Daffodil and   Michael House on its boundaries.

We then set about employing live-in house parents. The interview panel was made up of Russell Davis, Rosie Simpson from Hawke’s Bay and myself. It was important that they had an anthroposophical  background.  Russell and Silke fitted the job description perfectly, they were young, with a young son Alex. They had both worked in curative education in Warrah in Australia and had a strong interest in anthroposophy. Silke was also an architect and Russell had experience in the Army and was also a chef so we knew they would not starve!

The families of the six young people sort of selected themselves: Nick Davis, Dale Bush, Catriona  Gunning and  Joseph Whitwell all came from Napier, Mark Warner from Christchurch and Stephen Roberts, also from Napier, moved in three months later. Joseph Whitwell is no longer at Hohepa.

Silke ran a vocational programme from Christopher House with a focus on craft, in the room that is now the volunteers’ lounge, and also gardening. Other staff were employed to provide extra help.

A Council of Management was set up and had members from the families at Hawke’s Bay. Over the coming years,  five new houses were added and it has evolved in what it is today. A home for 30 residents who enjoy a wonderful life style  with lives enriched by the diverse people who have come to work there.

The residents are involved in a large range of activities from gardening, crafts,  Special Olympic sports including bowls, swimming and basketball and athletics. Over the years several residents have competed at overseas events.

It became difficult to manage the small diverse group of people in a day service at Christopher House so, in partnership with Kotuku Trust, FEAT (Further Education and Training Service) was set up providing a larger range of services originally  to 15 Hohepa Auckland people and 21 from Kotutu Trust. The relationship with Kotutu ended in 2007, Hohepa Auckland started Helios in Barrhead Place in New Lynn which provides not only for the Hohepa community but also for many others.

Our daughter Kay arrived  at Hohepa in about 1998.   Unlike Catriona, Kay lived at home. She went to special classes in normal schools and then onto a two year course at Unitec, the local polytechnic, something Catriona and several of the other residents at Hohepa have done.  Kay became keen to join her sister at Hohepa. It made sense for the two girls to be together so they could support each other as there were no other siblings. As Cliff and I age we have peace of mind that they are together.

They originally both lived in Christopher House,  Kay settled in well. Also around this time Bill Morris and Russell Davis were in the process of setting up the Hohepa Foundation and money from the Foundation was used in the setting up of Hohepa Auckland.

 Catriona enjoyed her company but became a bit reliant on Kay to the stage that if she forgot  to pack anything when they came home it was always Kay’s fault.

When Magnolia House was bought in 2006 Kay moved in with Hazel. The house was later extended and two other residents moved in. The four of them are still living there together.

Catriona is still at Christopher House and sees Kay regularly as she is just down the driveway.

Kay was talking to her dad the other day and said she would like to make a speech at  the 20th celebration. Cliff asked her what she wanted to say and she said that she wanted to say how much she enjoyed the lifestyle at Hohepa, the interaction with staff and volunteers and the activities. Like a number of other residents  Kay is fortunate to have  a part time job.

While it remains an anthroposophical based organisation Hohepa Auckland has managed to fit its teachings into the residents’ everyday Kiwi Life.