A set of brand-new power tools has helped a group of young people with disabilities from Wellington-based Maranga Collective, which is operated by Spectrum Care their woodworking skills and employment prospects.
Maranga service coordinator, Denise Meulenbroeks, says Maranga Collective runs a weekly 3-hour woodworking session for the young people with tools sponsored by Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service.
"It's a popular session. We set a high standard, sell our wood products, and the group keeps the earnings. Being able to create quality products with better tools builds the group's confidence and means they get a better return," says Denise.
Maranga Collective helps young people with disabilities upskill and find employment. About 40 people aged between 21 and 30 use the service, which is based in Abel Smith St.
Maranga was established 4 years ago by Spectrum Care, who responded to the call from families and young adults who wanted to create a supportive environment for their children's progression into paid employment and continued learning. Spectrum then worked in partnership with the young people and families to create the kind of support they felt would help them thrive. The Ministry of Social Development is the main funder, with support from the Ministry of Health and sponsorships.
The wood products are sold under a 'Made by Maranga' label and include wine racks and garden furniture. They are sold with other products such as preserves and jams, tomato plants, T-shirts, bags and candles.
The Collective engages with employers to find work for the young people and works to increase the profile of Maranga. In July, it has organised a programme of activities at a local community hall, Thistle Hall, including a Shakespeare theatre performance, to promote the collective.
"Wellington is very accepting of people with disabilities but it's not easy to get people into work as many employers don't recognise the value of people with disabilities," says Denise. "One of these is commitment, as people with disabilities want jobs to play a productive role in the community.
"We help them develop their skills and work with other support agencies to find them a job. About a third of the people, we support are already in employment, mostly part-time.
"None of this would happen successfully without the dedicated support of Mikey Elsby and the staff team at Maranga."
In June, members of Maranga's woodworking team joined a group of 14 who attended a food and fibre sector taster course supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries and held at Taratahi Agriculture Training Centre near Masterton to learn about the beekeeping industry and to build beehives.
Maranga community support worker Mikey Elsby says the group was in high spirits and excited to find they could build the beehives.
"I think they could build them for hobby beekeepers. They know they can do it."
Denise Meulenbroeks says the sponsorship has made a huge impact for the group.
"Before, we didn't have the money to invest in quality tools and they were breaking and needing to be replaced from money earned from sales. Now with quality tools, the group can master their woodworking skills, and get the satisfaction and income of earning more money from the sales."
Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service Director of Business Insights and Spatial Intelligence, Debbie Ward, said the sponsorship is a clear example of supporting adults with learning disabilities to gain new skills that will give them opportunities for future employment.
"The sponsorship with the Collective is a great way to spark interest in working with wood or a career in silviculture. We are very proud to be supporting the Collective, seeing all the fantastic uses of wood, and helping the young people build skills and knowledge for their future."
'Made by Maranga' has a Facebook page. Employers interested in discussing employment prospects can contact Denise Meulenbroeks:
phone: 027 221 2445