Double celebration for VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai
Around 50 people gathered in Christchurch Central on Thursday 6 June to celebrate the official opening of a new VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai office, and to mark the organisation’s second birthday.
Among them were several young people with care experience who work for VOYCE, including Northland-based VOYCE intern Lakiesha Cummings. Lakiesha received rapturous applause on relating a personal story of inspiring another young person to bravely speak about their own experience in care.
More than a physical place
Also present was Christchurch GP Dame Sue Bagshaw. Dame Sue is a huge supporter of VOYCE, and the space the office now occupies at No. 5 Amuri Courts was previously occupied by her 298 Youth Health Centre.
Officially opening the office, VOYCE Board Chair Steve Ferguson emphasised that VOYCE is much more than a physical place: “This is a place of spiritual and emotional safety for all children with care experience.”
Face-to-face support and connection
The new office will provide face-to-face support and connection activities to children and young people in care within the Christchurch area, including those in residences, remand and group homes.
Christchurch staff include two kaiwhakamana (advocacy workers), a youth intern and a regional manager, and the office is currently recruiting for another kaiwhakamana.
Kaiwhakamana from Christchurch will also offer services to young people in the Epuni Care and Protection residence in Wellington.
"This is a place of spiritual and emotional safety for all children with care experience."
An important milestone
Oranga Tamariki Chief Executive Gráinne Moss and Voices of Children and Young People General Manager Kiri Milne were among those at the celebration.
The Christchurch opening marks an important milestone for children and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand, says Kiri.
“For the first time, care experienced children and young people in Christchurch have access to an independent, face-to-face advocacy service that has been set up specifically for them.
“Along with VOYCE teams also established in Auckland and Te Tai Tokerau, this represents a significant step towards realising the Expert Advisory Panel’s intention that all children and young people with experience of care are able to connect with each other, and are supported to have their voices heard so they have a greater level of influence on their care experience and better understand their care identity.”