Jim Battersby would probably not want this article to be about him. His self-effacing outlook prefers the kudos to be shared with others. And in some respects he is right. The great things we do in life, those challenges that we rise to and succeed in, are rarely achieved alone. One person, however, is all that is needed to be a catalyst for something worthy and important to happen, and that is the story here.
Four years ago Jim was walking along Dominion Road Extension and heard the sounds of children playing and laughing. He was outside Roskill South Kindy, and these sounds drew him like nothing had in some time. He had been going through a bout of what he calls “the miseries,” and the children’s noisy play had the effect of making him want to be part of that uncomplicated happiness. He felt like an urchin from the street when he shyly approached Karen Ramsey, head teacher at the Kindy, and asked if he might visit for a while.
Here's where the other side of the story kicks in. Karen and her team decided to take a risk. Yes, it was a little risky; they didn’t know Jim, and didn’t know how it would work out, but he was invited to come for a kindy visit the next term. The team were on tenterhooks, wanting Jim to enjoy his time at the kindy, but they needn’t have worried. The children took over.
Having been told they would be getting a visitor the next day, the children unanimously decided his name would be “Poppa Jim.” Upon his arrival, Jim was welcomed by the children who all wanted to show him their pictures, books, playdough creations and sandpit forts. Poppa Jim was a huge hit.
So began Poppa Jim’s regular visits to Roskill South Kindy. Every Tuesday he would walk the short distance from his home to Kindy, and more recently via scooter. It’s normal for Jim to hear “Here’s Poppa Jim!” as he arrives, and “I love you Poppa Jim!” He’s never without a child or three who want to snuggle with him as he reads a story, and Jim encourages their natural curiosity about his infirmities. He believes it’s important that they learn about the normalities of old age.
Jim speaks in soft, glowing tones about his experiences at kindy. He proudly shows the cards and pictures lovingly made for him which adorn his home, and values them as more precious than any awards he has been given. All the kindy children have a portfolio which is added to each day by the teachers to create a story of their time at kindy. Jim also has a portfolio. In fact, he now has two. If he is sick, he receives emails from the children hoping that he will get better soon. Two years ago for his 90th birthday party, over 100 children and their families attended the celebrations.
Poppa Jim has become somewhat of a local celebrity. Karen describes one child spotting him from the second storey window of her home, and yelling “Hi Poppa Jim!!” at the top of her lungs, much to the chagrin of her mother. Poppa Jim also finds he is sometimes greeted enthusiastically by young children at the supermarket.
When Jim first became a regular visitor at the kindy, he thought it would be lovely to be a kind of grandfather-figure for some of the children who didn’t have grandparents living locally, but the reality was all the children wanted to be with him. Even those who had grandparents living locally. It goes both ways; Jim has no family living in Auckland. Becoming part of the kindy community has given him a sense of family, and a sense of purpose.
Four years ago Jim considered that he had finished everything he had wanted to do in life, and his remaining years lay empty before him, “but then,” he says, “He threw another one at me.” Part of his life’s “work” is unfolding in his twilight years. Jim has become an advocate for seniors getting involved in kindies, both as a cure for loneliness and depression amongst elders, and also as a bridge across the generations, with so many families lacking grandparents close by. He believes that others could also get a great deal out of being part of kindergartens.
There are always opportunities to enrich the lives of others, if one is open to them, and life is not over till it’s over.
Numerous celebrations occur all over Auckland during October for Diwali. Also known as Deepavali (the festival of lights). Diwali signifies different things in different parts of India, and it is a celebration that now extends across different religions: Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists and Muslims.
Some Indians focus on Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and fertility. While others celebrate Rama’s return to the kingdom of Ayodhya after a 14-year exile. People set out lamps to light his path, making this the “Festival of Lights.” Diwali signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. The religious festival has a focus on welcoming wealth and prosperity into the home by celebrating with family using lights, decorations and food.
Here in the Bay, Kesha Surti is an award winning Bollywood style choreographer of Khottey Sikkey and says she is looking forward to the festival. “It’s very special to me to celebrate Diwali with family. We look back a whole year, put any failures behind us and then together look forward to success. There’s a lot of positivity and happiness with the lights, colours and delicious food.”
Kesha teaches dance at the BHB Community Centre to Chottey Sikkey, a group consisting of children three years and over. This group, along with mainstage group Khottey Sikkey, also support events like the Santa Parade and library celebrations
“Nearly a year ago as I lay in a semi-coma at North Shore Hospital my family were being told to start planning my funeral. The medical record said ‘Rob is expected to pass away soon,' but now, fully recovered and thanking God for a new liver, I am raring to go with some fresh material for communicators.” Rob Harley
When we visited Rob in hospital he had a life expectancy of 15 minutes if they took him off the ventilator. Now miraculously back from the brink, he is ready to do what he does best – tell stories.
We all want our story to be heard but most of us are just not that skilled at telling it well. Do you want to reach a particular audience or just pass on your story to the next generation? Rob Harley is one of NZ's best, most empathetic story tellers and he is running a one day seminar to help people tell their stories in a more engaging way.
It has been said that many of us are writing our autobiographies, often one day at a time, usually on Facebook. If you want to step up a level and make your story permanent, then this workshop is a great place to start. Let Rob help you to tell your story well. In future issues of BEACON we will be looking at the practical how to’s of recording your story, especially for seniors, but first you want to make it interesting for your audience.
Having been to one of Rob’s workshops previously, we highly recommend it for anyone who has to communicate effectively in business, social circles or for family history.
Windsor Park Baptist Church, Saturday October 15th. Cost $59. Register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org More info at www.bhb.nz/storycraft
I read with interest your article on the Roberton Lodge Saga and I commend your balanced approach. You made some valid points particularly when you said that homes such as the Roberton Lodge serves a vital role. And exactly where do people suffering from mental illness live if they are not wanted in the community?
As the mother of a daughter who developed a mental illness some twenty-five years ago I feel qualified to make a few comments on the way people with mental illness are treated in a discriminatory way. Incidentally my daughter is now doing well on good medication and has done for quite some time, but with a small degree of remaining disability. Fortunately, she lives among her own family.
If we talk about community surely that should include all members within it. We have sympathy and give support to people who suffer any number of physical illnesses and physical disabilities. We even recognise dementia as something that needs our care and attention and it is talked about, although sometimes reluctantly. But where is the sympathy and support for people with severe mental health problems? A mental health problem is also an illness.
Often the lack of understanding can stem from ignorance, and the unwillingness to understand. The general public may have a misconception of what mental illness really is and this is often not helped by media portrayal. Every person with a mental health issue has their own particular set of symptoms. We cannot generalise. It’s true that some awful crimes have been committed by people who have become very unwell. But most people with a mental health issue do not commit crimes. It could be argued that society itself could even be held responsible for those that do, for allowing people to fall through the cracks and not providing adequate treatment, care and support. It is always mental health that is at the end of the queue for health funding.
People in need of support and care need to be provided for in the community and this is precisely why we need houses where our vulnerable feel safe and protected. They also need back up care from community mental health services and the community need to know that these are in place. I see from your article that the lodge manager maintains close contact with these. If basic material needs are given priority, then a person is more likely to remain well. I should point out that more often than not when a person becomes mentally unwell, it is difficult to maintain friendships and friends often drift away. It is also difficult to maintain social interaction and the person can become isolated and marginalised.
If we talk to other people we may find that many have someone within their own family who has a mental illness or who has had one in the past, or knows someone who has in their family. They may be just reluctant to talk about it. We never know what is in the future for us. We might be the one needing care.
In many big cities of the world you will see the homeless. Some are there because they wish to be. Others are clearly very unwell. A community can be judged by the way they treat their most vulnerable.
Thank you for presenting your article and putting across an alternative approach.
Last month, Graham Edwards of the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre was handed a bag of cash, totalling just over $240 – money raised by students of Auckland International College (AIC), from a mufti-day at the school.
AIC student Brian Lin approached his school with the idea to raise money for a community project, and after consultation with Graham Edwards it was decided that the recipient would be Food Pantry – a combined churches of Blockhouse Bay venture, based at Blockhouse Bay Baptist Church.
Food Pantry is a similar concept to a food bank, except that those in need can choose what they want from 17 basic commodities, rather than just being given a bag, thus allowing them some dignity. The donation has been earmarked for the fruit and veggie initiative, which aims to raise $50 a week to supply people in need with fresh produce, along with the basic supplies being offered.
Mr Edwards commented, “Although I had talked with Brian a couple of months ago, I was amazed when given the donation, as you can imagine, although I am rapidly becoming used to the great things AIC students do for our community.”
“The AIC donation goes a long way to kick-starting the fruit and veggie initiative, which we hope will attract regular sponsorship from local businesses and the community. Just $10/month from 20 people provides $50 worth of fresh produce each week.“
To donate, or for more information, contact Graham or Maree at the BHB Community centre – 09 626 4980.
Hair Raising Hat Party
Every October for 15 years the Hair Raising Hat Party has been a fun and safe alternative to trick or treating, with more lollies and a whole heap of fun. Space is cleared in the church for activities, games and food, and for families to parade their weird hair or wacky hats.
This year we are planning an even bigger and better event; come and hear about the ‘Greatest Superhero,’ plus there will be some new fun activities for older kids. The ever-popular photo booth is back, so come and squeeze in with friends and family to create lasting memories.
If you haven’t been before you’re in for a treat! Start planning your weird hair or wacky hat now - there are prizes for individuals across all the age groups and a prize for best dressed family!
Put the date in your calendars and smart phones:
Monday 31 October 5.45-8pm
Blockhouse Bay Baptist Church
$2 per child donation.
Recommended age group 4-14.
Enquiries 626 6980 or www.baybaptist.org.nz
Roskill South Athletics Club and Lynfield College are uniting for the summer season to offer athletics to our community. Auckland Council is undertaking major turf renovations at Margaret Griffen Park which has meant the Roskill South Athletic Club has had to find an alternative venue for the coming season.
Club President, Peter Wyatt says “We did not want to move too far and risk inconveniencing our members and not being able to offer children of the local communities our services. As a result of speaking to the College, we are grateful for them agreeing to us using their facilities and at the same time excited by the opportunity to help the College raise its profile in Secondary School athletics through the availability of our coaching programmes.” Roskill South is known for their quality coaches who include the current New Zealand men’s 100m and Long Jump champion.
The club has been based at Margaret Griffen Park for over 60 years supporting the local communities of Mt Roskill, Lynfield, Blockhouse Bay and further afield. Children from as young as 2 years through to 16 years can experience a family-friendly environment, enjoy healthy exercise and gain skills in running, jumping and throwing from beginner level through to participation in regional and national athletics competitions.
Auckland Council has been very helpful with the relocation and set up, providing facilities needed such as shot put and discus circles, rebuilding the existing long jump pit and marking the three tracks required for the season. This will leave a permanent legacy of better facilities at the College after we return to the park next season.
Roskill South has seen some notable international sportspeople come through the club as children including at least six of the Rugby Sevens players at the Rio Olympic Games. As Peter says, ‘athletics is regarded as the foundation sport for children providing speed, agility and co-ordination beneficial to almost all other sports and we look forward to welcoming new members to the club at our new venue’.
For more information on joining Roskill South Athletics please go to our website: www.roskillathletics.com
Photo: Tim Morrison
Last Voyage of the Westport
The time to bid fair winds and following seas to 'La Grande Dame' of the New Zealand shipping scene has come. The iconic cement carrier Westport has been berthed at the Port of Onehunga throughout the past seven weeks, after discharging her final load of cement for Holcim NZ on July 23. But she set sail from Onehunga for the very last time on 21 September, on the tide, after being sold to European interests.
SMT Shipping has purchased Westport as a going concern, and intends to employ her in the cement trade, with Norway her new operational base. Holcim representative Robyn Flynn said of the transaction, "I am so pleased that we have sold her and she will continue as a cement carrier rather than going to scrap". She was handed over to her new owners, and taken out of the New Zealand registry at the same time. Westport is now known as Fjordvik, and flew the Bahamas flag when she departed Onehunga for the final time.
A full crew is now on board, along with two Holcim employees, who will oversee the vessel's operational handover. They also guided the ship through the Manukau Heads one final time before heading south to New Plymouth. While there, Westport will undertake an in-water survey before commencing her longest voyage since first arriving at Onehunga from Hamburg, Germany, on 27 March 1976.
That maiden call was the first of 1104 times she tied up at Onehunga, a tally no other ship visiting the port has come remotely close to matching. Barring any calls by the other Holcim ship, Milburn Carrier II, to replenish the silos with cement from Timaru before the year is out, Westport's departure has brought down the curtain on roughly 180 years of shipping activity at the Port of Onehunga.
LPG tankers continue to make sporadic visits to the Manukau, usually in winter to meet high demand. The most recent was Panama-flagged LPG tanker Bougainville (4752-dwt, built 2014) on 9 September.
Have You Tried Alpha?
The Alpha course is an international phenomenon running in 169 countries and 112 languages, with over 27 million people having taken the course worldwide! It’s free and it explores the big questions of life, the universe and everything, in the context of presenting the evidence for the Christian faith, and allowing people to debate and discuss the presentations.
A typical evening includes supper (delicious desserts) followed by a video presentation and then a facilitated discussion and question time. Bear Grylls endorses the programme. He says ‘Got questions about life? Then try alpha…’ A recent participant said that the course had made an incredible difference to their life and they couldn’t wait to do it again!
The Alpha course will be running an introductory night on October 12th at 7.30pm at Church of the Saviour, 2 Heaphy St, Blockhouse Bay. You are welcome to come along for a taster session. Pre-register with the office at email@example.com to help us plan the catering, or simply turn up on the night. The course runs for around eight weeks on Wednesdays following the intro night.
You can also check out the alpha website at www.alpha.org
Jai, John, Kerrie, Lance, Lisa, Suzy, Varsha