Periodic Detention (PD) workers are out in many communities every Saturday working as directed by our Justice system.    At Great Start Taita, a decent dollop of respect and plenty of humour meant that a garden was rescued from the brink of going wild,  PD workers started going the extra mile and community connections were nurtured.
It started with a new PD supervisor who ‘gets what Great Start is about’ and a handful of PD workers who were receptive to some warmth and the opportunity of a second chance, blend in some giving and receiving and ladle on lashings of encouragement, appreciation and opportunities for creativity.  Mix well and bake in a warm oven for a few hours on a Saturday and you have the makings of a very special dish it seems.

“I don’t know what it is about this place, but there’s something here that makes them (the men and women doing community service hours) want to get stuck in….” has been a comment made by our regular Community Probation Supervisor at The Great Start House on Saturdays.

We started small by writing a letter about the list of jobs I made for the team each weekend. I kept it really chatty and not too formal, with a bit of humour.  I soon found out that the most important thing though was noticing and acknowledging all their efforts from the last weekend and giving feedback – the more I did of this, the more work they did and their own initiative and creativity emerged – a win win situation!

Another secret ingredient has been food.   Giving PD workers food!  One week when I baked a chocolate cake, the next week one of the guys brought in some hinges and bolts from his own house to fix a gate he knew needed fixing – and I hadn’t even got around to putting the broken gate on the list yet.  They raved and raved so much about the moistness of the cake that I ran off some copies of the recipe for them the following week and they snapped them up.  One guy asked if he could take some of the artichokes home, as no one seemed to be using them, he told us how to cook them too.  “Sure!” we said.

Variety and encouragement seem to motivate this team, they work hard but we don’t make it about breaking rocks in the hot sun.  So far they have been involved in making one piece of art and I plan to give them another project to do entirely on their own.  Their supervisor can’t believe how much they achieve in 3 hours at Great Start, compared to what would normally be 6 hours of work elsewhere.

A member of the PD team once commented to one of our team, “It’s for a good cause; we can see things progressing – it’s more worthwhile than clearing blackberry bushes”.

It’s amazing what good things can come out of building trusting relationships – one young guy shared that he and his partner were expecting their first baby very soon, but had concerns because they were having trouble finding a midwife (this is common in our area and many other areas).  They lived in our neighbouring community of Naenae so we encouraged him to get his partner to come in the following week so that we could hook her up with our DHB midwife.  She has now been seen by the midwife and all is going well!


Connecting with some of our ‘harder to reach’ families, developing a sense of reciprocity and increasing a sense of wellbeing and belonging in your community.
Key Learnings:

  • Treating people with respect and offering a positive work environment generates more good will and trust by creates a spiral of positives, transforming participation.
  • Going that extra step is important as the results can be life changing for our families.
    Key Outcomes:
  • Connecting in different ways with our community helps to ensure that as many people as possible have opportunities to find the support they need, for example a midwife.
    Key Contact:

Kirsten Grenfell

Story by Kirsten Grenfell and Denise Bijoux.
June 2012

Read more; Community Probation wins in Taita

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