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Shane's Learner Story

WELLfed Testimonials - Evidence of Impact & Outcomes

Prepared by Associate Professor Mona Jeffreys

Mona (Okasha) Jeffreys | LinkedIn

May 2023 

Learner story, Shane, age 57

Shane is a Māori man, who has faced many challenges in life, but shows how WELLfed has helped him get to the place he’s in now.  

Shane’s early life

Shane lived in Wellington as a young child, but used to run away from home, and from an early age his parents “couldn’t handle him”. He was taken into foster care at age 7, and went from home to home, but continued to run away, each time being returned to a place he didn’t want to be. 

He was given an opportunity to live with an aunt in a home near Blenheim. He stayed there for a couple of years. When he returned to Wellington he tried to go back to his parents, but that didn't work out. He was surrounded by alcohol and drugs, and knew he had to help himself and his cousins to get out of the cycle of abuse. 

Shane describes his earlier adulthood as being tough. He had got in with the wrong crowd, “done some mischief stuff’, and paid for it… I came out [of prison] like a, you know, lost soul…. I was in a dark space. I was ignorant too….”.

What made you reach out for help?

Shane was living in a tent under the bridge, when a friend of his picked him up and took him home. Shane was ready for change: “I grew out of it, like a lot of things, you get sick of it….”

The friend contacted WELLfed on Shane’s behalf, and Shane came into WELLfed for an interview. Kim at WELLfed remembers Shane being upset; she spent time with him, and introduced him to some of the WELLfed whānau. She talked with Shane about taking home a meal of appreciation to his flatmate.

“I took a step away from how I was, on the streets. I thought ‘I’m going to try this’. It took one friend who saw me on the streets, under the bridge, they introduced me to WELLfed. When I came here there was no going back for me. Things have lightened up in my life.”

I’ve got my own place. Because of WELLfed. 

After thirty-something years, Shane now has his own home. It took a lot of effort, but with the support of WELLfed, he has achieved what he long dreamed for. 

The journey to having his own home was a hard slog. “We were trying social workers, people weren’t really helping …. I had to stay positive, stay on track”. 

He'd been offered housing in the past and he didn't take some of it because he knew of families in need, who had children sleeping in cars and vans, and he would rather they were helped before him. 

Shane was offered emergency housing; a room in a motel. He was there for a few months, and was just settling into the place, despite feeling unwell a lot of the time. Then one of the other residents told him that the previous occupant of his room had been dealing P: “I was wondering why I was getting crook, and that the bedroom smells like chemicals”. Although promised another room, none were available, and Shane decided he could not go back to that room for the sake of his health: “I went back to the streets after that.  I told those guys, look, I'm not living in an infected place. It was a dealer in that place before me…. I think it was better for me to get back on the streets…. I left that”. 

“So I went back on the streets, stayed there for a while, then I stayed with a mate – that was alright for a while, but he was an alcoholic, he liked his marijuana and all that, and it was going from bad to worse for me. But I stayed on track, never got up to anything, stayed positive as best I could”. After being back on the streets for a while, it was then that Hemi Henry suggested WELLFed. Shane was reluctant: “He pulled me in and said ‘Look, I know something that might be able to help, they’re good people, do you want to try it?’ And I said no, I might end up the same again. But then I thought ‘no, I’ve been through the worst’, and what do you know, this was the best”.

Shane went back on the social housing list, although he did not hold out much hope. Then with WELLfed’s support, he enrolled with Ngāti Toa Rangatira, his iwi on his mother’s side: “I ended up meeting a few cousins I didn't even know, but they would say ‘yeah, I know your family’”.  The iwi has a community housing provider, Te Āhuru Mōwai, who were able to offer Shane a place to call home – he’s been there for about five months. 

What has WELLfed taught you?

“I didn’t cook before, I always just went and bought bread and luncheon or something like that. Or pies. Now to do something for yourself, it gave me motivation. Something to look forward to, and I appreciate all this stuff, and I want to pass it on, to carry on helping.”

And Shane’s favourite dish: the sausage pie: “it's a good adding in all the veggies and the love.”

But WELLfed is so much more than learning to cook. “It’s … more than it. Way more than just cooking, it was expressing myself, opening up. That saved my life.”

Shane identifies that it’s the support that he has at WELLfed that has helped. “It’s about meeting the right people, taking them into your life, it’s about what’s good for you. That’s why I’m still here. I just keep on coming back and coming back, there is nothing like having good people around…. If it wasn’t for WELLfed, I’d still be living under that bridge”.

The happiest times of my life, right here and right now. 

Sharing, volunteering and further learning

Shane appreciates what others have given him, and himself gives back to the community. He helps out homeless people: “It’s like I’ve been to hell and back. But now there's worse off than me….those people have come from that place, you know. Been abused and what…. I still help people who are down and out, people on the streets, I give them something if I can afford it, bread or a pie”.

Shane also helps in the WELLfed garden, and is using some of those skills to grow things at home: “It's amazing what you can, you know, make of a little but, it can go a long way”. He also uses the skills that he is learning at WELLfed to help in the kitchen at a local community centre that serves hot lunches on a Friday: “Yeah, what I've learned here, I’m going to pass it on”. 

He is taking every opportunity he can to further his learning: “Even that garden… I met these amazing people… [and] you're learning. I didn't even know how to grow a potato. Now I know and other things too”.

When asked if he might be interested in being a tutor at WELLfed, he shows how keen he is: “Funny you say that. Because I've been thinking about this for a month. One day I might be a tutor. And when I asked, one of the tutors that said ‘well, it's possible’….. That's what I want to do. All I want to do is give back”.

Shane’s confidence is also returning. A few weeks prior to the interview, there were a lot of new people starting at WELLfed. Before Kim could do the health and safety briefing, Shane got up and did it. He was nervous that he might forget something, but he did well: “Things I didn't even know I was capable of, you know, ... But when I did come out with it, it came out normally... So there was a talent I didn't even know I had”.

He is also making the most of the other opportunities at WELLfed. He’s having classes on literacy and numeracy: “Tracey, she's awesome. She’s teaching me. She gave me a book, like a diary. I'm writing the stuff down, in case I forget you know, I can go back to it”.

“There’s a lot of opportunities here. To come grab on to, to help. They help you write CVs too”. Although Kim is careful that learners are not overloaded: “One of the things we always talk about is not being overwhelmed... So checking one or two things off and then the next thing”. Shane agrees: “yeah, I went there too fast. And then I started realising I'm taking too much on, too much was going on. So now I'll do one thing at a time…. But if I can be still here today and get my cooking and all that, and then get a house…. What can happen next?”

Shane also has his eye on other courses, including First Aid and Interviewing Skills. At the time we spoke, he was planning to apply for a job in a food court. 

What else has changed for you? 

Shane’s hard early life had shaped his distrust in others: “There’s not much affection where I came from….[I] couldn't reach out, didn't know who to reach out to”. 

But the love and support that he has been shown at WELLfed has changed that: “There are people who care. There’s a lot who care. I care too, it was always there, I just didn’t know how to show it. But now, yeah, I show the love. Thank-yous. Positive stuff. Love is a big thing, it goes a long way. You’ve got to beat the negative”.

Although acknowledging the importance of food, his whakaaro mirrors that of WELLfed’s mission of nourishing communities through food & connections: “Everything's nice here….. it doesn't have to be food, I mean. The talking is like food”.

It has also boosted his self-belief: “Yeah, but it's good to have my confidence, yeah….. I always had it but to have that come out…. I'm definitely going to pass it on”. 

I found myself. Before it was “who am I?”

Key changes that Shane has experienced are learning to trust and build confidence: “It's just it's brought me out of my shell, you know? So I've opened up. Best thing I've ever done in my life... It’s about meeting the right people, taking them into your life, it’s about what’s good for you”.

Having met cousins and exploring whakapapa on his mother’s side through Ngāti Toa Rangatira he now wants to explore his whakapapa further: “So I need to get back up north to my father's side, Ngāpuhi”.

How community can play a role 

Shane’s insights are vital for us to understand how we can change things for the future, for an improved Aotearoa. When asked what we as a country should be doing better, he answers: “I think it's places like this. You know, if you can find a place where you  can feel comfortable. Like WELLfed, that's one. The other is going back to where you come from… going back to your roots.”  

“Coming to WELLfed is something I will cherish for the rest of my life”

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