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Taranaki suicide intervention stretched critically thin

Taranaki Retreat opened its doors in March 2017 as a suicide prevention initiative. However, demand has quickly outstripped supply and the pioneering charity needs your help to walk with Kiwis through their darkest days.

The retreat was established by a charitable trust, emerging from the vision of husband-and-wife team, Jamie and Suzy Allen, to provide a safe haven for people experiencing trauma, grief and crisis in their lives. That might be dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts or simply feeling trapped (606 Kiwis took their own lives last year).

Taranaki Retreat provides free accommodation and ongoing support in a whanau-based rural community, creating space for guests to rest and intentionally work through life’s big questions.

Jamie explains that demand has been far more than they anticipated: “It reflects how deep and widespread the problems are. It’s often hidden, but so many people are just hanging in there by the fingernails.”

Jamie and his team have launched a PledgeMe campaign with the goal of hiring a new Community Support Worker (requiring over $42,000). He says that a shoulder to lean on is what their guests need most.

A lifetime of issues and stress take time to work through, and the role of the Support Worker is to walk alongside the retreat’s guests in a compassionate, loving and non-judgemental way, directing the guests towards other support services as needed.

“It is deeply healing to be listened to; to be truly heard,” says Jamie. “Each day we feel privileged to hear people’s stories—to be on a shared journey with our guests, sometimes through the most profound suffering.”

Taranaki Retreat works in partnership with health professionals and other support agencies, but they also seek to provide the small, but meaningful, touches that can make all the difference to a guest’s state of mind.

“You can get a haircut and style and a pedicure and foot massage as part of your stay, experience equine therapy or work with our personal trainer in the gym,” explains Jamie. “All delivered by our volunteers who are extraordinarily generous with their time.”

The retreat fields over 120 enquiries each month—more than they can currently handle. Jamie says that the harsh realities of what people are facing can be heartbreaking:

“Recently, a truly wonderful person whom we were looking forward to hosting, tragically ended their life before they were able to stay with us. We continue to weave their story and magnificence into the urgency of what we are here for—because this truly is about all of us.”

Every dollar given and every hour of volunteer time served provides another opportunity for those who are struggling to find that shoulder to lean on that they desperately need.

“It’s super critical that we keep pace with the volume of enquiries,” says Jamie.

“We need an extra pair of helping hands. This new Support Worker will massively improve the agility in which we can respond to the needs of our community.”

Taranaki Retreat’s PledgeMe campaign begins on 11 March 2018. To give, see http://pldg.me/taranakiretreat

Rewards for their PledgeMe campaign include:

• receiving artwork created by Taranaki Retreat guests,
• naming retreat buildings,
• and home-made brownie delivered personally anywhere in the world.

If the crowd-funding appeal reaches its target there is a further goal to fund the development of additional buildings for on-site counselling services. “We are aiming high, because that’s the very least people deserve,” says Jamie.

PledgeMe themselves are excited about presenting the funding campaign:

“Community organisations like Taranaki Retreat really show the importance of engaging with your crowd to fill a community need. They smashed their target to open the retreat back in 2016, and we can’t wait to see what they achieve this time around,” says Jess Ducey, Chief People Wrangler of PledgeMe.

For more information, visit taranakiretreat.org.nz

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