Community grants help combat social isolation and preschool parenting

Hapai Pepi - Feature

Following COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s become evident that a number of older people living independently in our communities would benefit from regular social contact.

A desire to combat this social isolation amongst older New Zealanders, led Bupa Riverstone Care Home Manager, Christa Welch, to apply for a Bupa Foundation Community Grant to set up a Companion Caller programme in the Tararua District.

“We know that social isolation can lead to negative health outcomes and depression, so the biggest benefit of the Companion Caller programme will be keeping vulnerable older people connected to our community and the wider supportive services available to them here,” she says.

Kelly Wylie, Service Delivery Manager at The Trust Tararua, was over the moon to learn it had been granted $10,000 to get the programme up and running.

The Trust, located in Pahiatua, provides social work, counselling and parenting support services, including Safer Seniors - an elder abuse and neglect social service.

“The Companion Caller service works nicely with what we are already doing, but we wanted to get something started in our community that connected isolated older people with community members,” Kelly says.

The programme recruits, vets and trains volunteers to provide safe and appropriate support to the vulnerable and socially isolated.

“It’s friendly local volunteers who can regularly visit or phone, in a friendship capacity. It’s really just having a chat or doing something like completing a puzzle together or knitting,” Kelly says.

“Our volunteers are trained to make sure they provide safe and appropriate support to our vulnerable elderly folk. We’ve been really careful to make sure the programme is focused on providing company and reducing social isolation, but not being a caregiving service.”

Training also covers what to look out for if someone is being abused or neglected, and what to do if volunteers see or hear things that worry them.

“So, as well as it being a social connection in the community, it’s also a way to ensure their safety,” Kelly says.

Currently the Trust has recruited six volunteers and is now in the process of matching them with older people in the community.

Five hours north in Te Puke, The Bright Vision Charitable Trust has also been busy expanding their Hāpai Whanau parenting programme, following an $8,000 Bupa Community Grant.

Nominated by former Bupa Village Manager Brenda Littlejohn, Hāpai Whanau supports families on their parenting journey, to help support mentally healthy and resilient children.

Brenda had a personal connection with the charity, having spent four years knitting for them as part of her ‘Knit and Knatter’ group.

The programme offered two courses, Hāpai Mama – a course for expecting mothers, and Hāpai Pēpi - for parents of infants 0-12 months.

The Bupa Community Grant enabled the charity to develop a third stage in the programme, Hāpai Nohinohi - for parents of children 1-4 years.

“We wanted to develop something that would be super practical and provide some really good relational tools that parents can use right from having a new-born through to a teenager,” Childhood Educator Wendy Wilson says.

The Trust has spent the past few months working with Child Mental Health & Wellbeing Specialist Judy Hunter to develop the curriculum for 10 webinar sessions, each an hour long.

“We look closely at the ‘Circle of Security’ and how to make sure that you are meeting the needs on the circle, so children can develop a secure attachment with their parents,” Wendy says.

“We are also tackling some other meaty topics like resilience, what drives behaviours and strategies parents can use.”

The goal of the programme is to help make mothering a “really positive experience” Wendy says.

“Once children start to develop their independence, parents can find it really challenging. So, with the right information they can learn to enjoy this age group and not fall victim to the culture of the ‘terrible twos’,” she says.

“We want to make it a confident time where they can really enjoy mothering.”

The course officially kicked off online on 24th August, with 20 whānau from the community joining in.

“Without Bupa’s support we couldn’t have written the material because there is such a cost involved. If we didn’t have the money, then we couldn’t have spent the time developing the curriculum - so we are beyond grateful,” she says.

Bupa New Zealand was delighted to have five very deserving charities selected in the Community Grants programme, with a total of $33,000 in grants invested back into our local communities around the country.


Notes to editor

About the Bupa Foundation Community Grants

The Bupa Foundation Community Grants programme, launched in 2019, encourages Bupa employees across New Zealand and Australia to identify, nominate and work

with eligible organisations or charities that are making a positive difference in their community.

Grants of up to $10,000 are available. A total of $200,000 will be awarded through this programme in 2021, with the grants making a direct contribution back into communities where Bupa operates.

About Bupa

Bupa is a diverse health and care group, which has been committed to a purpose of longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world for more than 70 years.

In New Zealand, Bupa supports thousands of residents and clients through a range of health and care services including aged care, independent living, and dental services.

Employing more than 4,000 people in New Zealand, we believe that we can make a real difference to the lives of New Zealanders through our values, purpose and the way that we deliver personalised care.

For more information about Bupa visit