25 March 2021 at 12:00 am

Children are our Legacy

Cholmondeley has been there for us so many times, and in our most desperate moments. I hope that as I continue to tell our story in the years to come, that I’ll be telling it to a generation that still has a Cholmondeley to help them.” Julie, parent

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March marked 96 years since Cholmondeley Children’s Centre was established and I have been enjoying learning more about the Centre’s history and legacy in Canterbury from the wonderful team I am now privileged to be part of. While much has changed throughout the decades, it’s clear that our core purpose remains the same: to provide a safe haven for Canterbury’s tamariki.

Our long and proud history has been made possible by you, our community, who have cared for Cholmondeley whānau throughout challenge after challenge. Your ongoing support and aroha means we can continue to be there for the next generation and ensure all children have the opportunity to achieve their potential.

To ensure Cholmondeley remains relevant, our services continue to develop and adapt to meet the evolving needs of our community. We are the only community-based respite care and education centre in Aotearoa, with more  than 30,000 at-risk tamariki spending time at our Centre since it was gifted to the people of Canterbury by Hugh Heber Cholmondeley in 1925.

Cholmondeley’s story began as a convalescence home and care centre for underprivileged children, including those of widows from the first and second world wars, while our community faced the Depression, typhoid fever and an influenza epidemic.

In 1954, the Centre began providing broader relief for families in crisis, many of whom continue to fondly remember Cholmondeley’s first premises and have supported our work across multiple generations. Our original building was a quiet and remote traditional homestead amongst the bush. It provided opportunities for young people to recuperate and enjoy the outdoors, while difficult whānau situations were resolved.

“I stayed at Cholmondeley as a child when my father passed away and have many special memories of the place and the people,”- Robert

In the 1970s and 1980s, Cholmondeley began accommodating more children from families experiencing mental health, physical health, and relationship difficulties. It became clear that a specialised approach was needed to cope with the more complex behaviour tamariki were starting to exhibit. Staff focused on providing a caring environment, and eventually trained social workers and youth workers became a core part of the team to support families facing the everchanging challenges of modern life.

The original Cholmondeley homestead was rocked by the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, as were the lives of the whānau we support. Our building was damaged beyond repair and our children’s accommodation temporarily moved to nearby Bellbird Heights at Living Springs. We fundraised and embarked on the build of our unique child-centred facility, specifically designed to support learning, adventure, exploration and resilience-building for our tamariki. By mid-2015, together with our community, we achieved the massive feat of opening a brand-new, purpose-built centre for Canterbury whānau.

“Cholmondeley is, and has been for many years, a very special place for us as a family. Cholmondeley has become our extended family.The changes happening for our daughter are very heartening,” Sam

Our new facility was ready just in time to meet the demand that came as a result of impacts of the earthquakes. We saw a huge rise in the need for our services, with a 150% increase in the number of children in our care in just five years. As a result of ongoing stressors for families, Cholmondeley grew from near 200 children visiting in 2011, to more than 500 by 2017.

The high level of need for Cholmondeley’s services continues today, as the resilience of Canterbury whānau continues to be tested. The March 15 attacks on our Muslim whānau, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, have created complex challenges for families across our community. Already struggling whānau are now dealing with new issues exacerbated by financial problems, social isolation, a lack of support, and mental and physical health challenges. We know that in 2021, our tamariki need us more than ever and we remain poised to support local families in crisis.

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