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Representatives from the local Playcentre, Parents Centre and Toy Library worked together to create a bright and beautiful new 'kids hub' in Gore.
It began as a dream, but in less than two years young families in Gore have a beautiful new building to call their own.
The Gore Kids Hub was born out of necessity. When three children's organisations needed new facilities in the district, they decided to join forces and create something purpose-built for their collective needs.
A team of representatives from the local Playcentre, Parents Centre and Toy Library formed the Gore Kids Charitable Trust in mid-2014.
The Trust led the development of their project: shared facilities and extra space for community groups.
Raising the money to construct the building was a huge task, but they were able to collect $1.5 million from grants and community fundraising efforts, which encompassed everything from a wedding show to a mud run. But the fundraising is not over yet - the complete cost of the project will be $1.7 million in total.
The completed Gore Kids Hub is a spacious, brightly coloured building with an enclosed playground. The Trust celebrated the achievement with an official opening of the facility on 30 January.
A true hub
Ministry of Education ECE Advisor in Otago, Kurt Chisholm, says the new facility is a wonderful addition to early learning in Gore.
"In less than two years it grew from an idea to a finished centre. It's a fantastic resource," he says.
"It is a hub in the truest sense of the word, because it has come together from these three different groups, from the planning to the fundraising. It really is a genuine community project."
The council has gifted the centre the long term lease of the land, and the Trust is fundraising to build the playground, which will then be gifted to the community.
"The Trust put a phenomenal amount of effort and energy into the project. It's also reflective of the community it serves, which is largely rural – for example, there is a stock truck in the playground sponsored by a local transport company," he says.
In acknowledgement of the mammoth fundraising effort, 254 concrete blocks representing each of the donors and sponsors were laid along the pathway to the facilities.
Space to play and learn
The space is particularly well suited to the ethos of Playcentre, says Trust member and one of the driving forces behind the project Shelley Lithgow.
"It's an amazing, big space. We put in a closed sleep room so it's fantastic for families that are coming with babies in tow. The very young children can safely sleep in this room so parents can be hands-on and as involved as possible with their toddler.
"We've got quite a big open space out the front. We haven't put play equipment out there yet, because we wanted to see how it goes for a while, but we did put in a bike track, and the kids are really enjoying playing outside."
Shelley says it has been a deeply heartening experience to see community connections develop.
Because the founding organisations are complementary services, they have each seen their memberships greatly increase.
"Everyone's working so nicely together, and I'm seeing a lot of friendships being formed and new people coming in who previously might not have.
"It's easier for parents to try all these things because they're located in one place – and the children are definitely benefiting from that," she says.
It takes a village
In addition to the main centre facility, the hub offers a suite of 'community rooms'. These consist of an office, a consultation space and a meeting room that can be hired by organisations that work with children.
Shelley says a wide variety of community groups are using the rooms already.
A typical week at the hub would accommodate Playcentre sessions, Barnados and Parents Centre courses, music groups and cooking classes.
The community rooms are also being used for health and wellbeing classes and appointments.
"We're not trying to duplicate any service that is already in the community – our whole philosophy is 'it takes a village to raise a child' and that's what we're doing here at the hub."
Shelley notes that the facility is intended as a complementary addition to the other early learning services in the district.
"Many of the families that use the hub use multiple services. We're trying to ensure that when parents have time off work or study, they have somewhere to play and learn alongside their children, and develop relationships with other families.
"Whether you need somewhere to come and have a coffee and talk to other parents about, say, toilet training, or whether you need support from a range of different organisations, you can access the whole lot from here.
"We believe it can be a lonely journey for people, bringing up their children. And it can be a hard journey, at the best of times. So what we're trying to do is create a space where all families are welcome.”