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Otara’s Awhi Early Childhood Centre Opens

Otara’s Awhi Early Childhood Centre Opens – Thanks to the Mongrel Mob

It’s the only early childhood centre in the country that the Notorious Chapter of the Mongrel Mob have helped build and they’ll be among the many celebrating the opening of a state of the art family facility in the heart of Otara.

The Awhi Early Childhood Centre is a unique architecturally-designed resource and whanau-based pre-school in South Auckland.

It will have cost almost a million dollars once finished and much of the work and money that has gone into the six year project has been through voluntary contributions.

It represents the dream for Thelma Chapman who with her husband Sam run Awhi Community Development from their Otara home. It helps families, youth, children and those that Sam Chapman says “qualify because society terms them failures”, through their initiatives of hope and love.

Part of Sam Chapman’s story is the work he has done with the Notorious Chapter of the Mongrel Mob and the convicted rapist, Mark Stephens (recently featured on TV3’s “60 Minutes” programme). Stephens lived in the Chapman family home for 9 years after he was released from prison. Thirty of the Notorious Chapter of the Mob came to Sam 9 years ago and only two have returned to prison. They have shifted their focus from crime to their families.

“We couldn’t have built our dream without the help of “The Bros” ( The Mob) and Mark (Stephens),” Thelma Chapman said.

The Mob members and Mark Stephens provided hundreds of hours of voluntary labour, building, painting and digging as well as providing carvings for the centre.

The problem is for many local families, like the Mob they can’t afford the added expense of a pre-school or childcare.

The challenge is for local businesses or individuals to sponsor a placement for up to 10 children at a cost of $7,200 pa. each.

“We know New Zealanders gave $50 million to World Vision this past year. Here is an opportunity to invest in our own children and it’s as easy as 240 people or companies giving $30 a month,” Sam Chapman said.

So while the centre can take 50 children on Monday it will be half-full and the pre-schoolers will be enjoying the best of the best in the world, according to Thelma Chapman.

A teacher for 35 years, she traveled to London and Italy to research the philosophy, design and facilities for this centre.

“Why shouldn’t the children of Otara have the best in the world? So we took elements of the best ideas and contextualized them by saying, how do we make this look like us in South Auckland.”

It provides three full-time teachers, one who speaks Samoan, and another fluent in Te Reo.

The centre was designed by architect Joshua Grant but $100,000 is still need to complete the facility.

For any more information please call Sam or Thelma Chapman:

Office: 09 2744430


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