A free counselling service rolled out in Te Awamutu schools is clocking up a series of wins – and it’s hoped to continue extending the programme with community backing.
The service may be free, but providing it comes at a cost, and schools are encouraging the public to consider coming to the party.
One teacher told how a student’s confidence had improved drastically after being assisted by the Counselling in Schools programme.
“She holds her head high now, she smiles, she engages in conversation more readily. This is all since starting counselling. This has been of a huge benefit to her.”
Counsellor Leanne Bellamy said of another student who could now talk about his mother and her death, and what is happening at home.
Another teacher spoke of a student who was working well with his peers.
I’ve not seen any aggression anger behaviour, or outburst.” Phil Strong, Senior Leader of Zion who oversees the community service said stories like those and many more that come from parents, teachers and the children, “bring encouragement and motivation to the team.”
Working together in collaboration, Zion and Te Awamutu Primary School secured funding for the delivery of counselling this year via the Ministry of Education Urgent Response Fund who agreed to support the Rural and Roses Collective of schools.
In terms 1 and 2 this year the programme stretched across 16 schools with five part-time professional counsellors; a total of 71 children received counselling support.
This expansion succeeded because of the collaboration between schools, the willingness to share resources and the funding that allows counselling to be free for the families, Phil Strong said.
Feedback across the program is positive with most children expressing how much they look forward to their “special time with their counsellor.”
Counsellor Sue Abernathy said reservation and resistance can often be overcome by a gifted counsellor and a supportive school environment.
“Nothing is as valuable as a supportive home environment,” she said.
The Counselling in Schools programme is dependent on funding to enable the professional counsellors to be located in schools across the region.
The cost per term is approximately $30,000 but will increase as more schools are included, Phil Strong said.
“Ongoing support and funding will be necessary to see this programme deepen its reach into the region as more and more children are being referred, even by medical professionals.
“We need to ask our community to help,” says Sharon Griffiths, “it’s all about the community helping the community.” Businesses and community groups can provide donations to support the cost of providing free counselling to children. “For a $1000 donation, you can change a child’s future,” says Sharon.
Anyone who wishes to discuss sponsorship or donations should contact Phil Strong at Zion.
This programme is not limited by the demand for the service, but the capacity to meet the need.
“Counsellors can join the team and be paid to help the children,” says Phil Strong. The current team of counsellors are able to work in private practice and commit one or two days per week to community work.
Shelley Fitness, Principal of St Patrick’s Catholic School, says, “The counselling really has been invaluable to us here at St Pat’s. We have seen an amazing improvement in behaviour for those students who have been lucky enough to receive it.”