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Empowering neighbours

Reta Warren stands outside Te Awhina Cameron Community House on Stuart Cres. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

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Reta Warren has volunteered at Te Awhina Cameron Community House in Masterton for the past four years, and does “a bit of everything” – from cleaning to running courses for the Masterton community.

The house is used by a diverse mix of people and cultures, aiming to help the community at large, as well as those suffering from issues such as drugs, alcohol, suicide, and poor mental health.

It offers free classes, counselling, and spaces for socialising and cooking.

Warren has run several different courses at the house, such as literacy skills for Literacy Wairarapa, and even knitting classes for the Red Cross.

Warren lived near Te Awhina, located on Stuart Cres, for several years and used to drop in occasionally for a coffee, or to attend a course.

She said that Donna Gray, the house’s co-ordinator, encouraged her to start volunteering after she had attended a few classes herself – Warren now volunteers her time Monday to Thursday.

“[Gray] picked me up at one of the women’s day courses that they ran on a Saturday, and she told me to come down and do some sewing – and I’ve never left.”

Warren said she was “Masterton born and bred” and has been involved in the community her entire life, working on the Trinity Schools Trust Board with Rathkeale College, later moving to the St Matthew’s School kitchens, and then to Wairarapa College, where she was a cleaner.

At Te Awhina, Warren helps out in any way she can and has become a core member of the volunteer team.

Warren recalled several women she’d encountered at the house who had overcome significant issues and returned to a more healthy, stable existence.

“There have been quite a few girls that have really turned a corner here.

“One mother used to come here, and now she’s managed to get a job at The Warehouse, so she works there now – quite a few of them have gone on to support themselves.”

  • National Volunteer Week, celebrating the work of volunteers and charities, began on Sunday and continues through to Saturday. Every day this week, the Times-Age will highlight a person [or organisation] who gives their time for the betterment of the Wairarapa community.

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