Fulfilling a Community Need in a Supportive Environment September 2022

Some of the team at Forget Me Not Day Centre

Story by Janine Duncan, Volunteering Northland

The Forget Me Not Adult Day Centre in Tikipunga provides a welcoming, inclusive, caring and collaborative environment where the aim is to provide clients “with their very best day each day.”
Founded in February 1994 as an independent charitable trust, the service was established in response to a community need for a day centre and respite service for the elderly and those with neurological conditions, disabilities, their caregivers and families.  “Catering for all ages and abilities,” the centre is open five days a week and aims to provide a ‘’stimulating and safe environment” that extends client's abilities where social interaction, camaraderie, well-being and a sense of belonging and achievement are paramount.
A comprehensive and holistic range of social, educational, and interactive activities are provided each day by fully qualified diversional therapists.  Volunteer activity helpers support the staff while fitness instructors and community coaches teach a range of exercise and instructional classes.  Activities are tailored to meet individual client needs and a staff to client ratio of one to five enables personalised attention. 
The diverse activity programme includes newspaper and current affairs discussions, Tai Chi, arts and crafts, SIT FIT and swing dance classes, board games, cooking classes and bowls.  Weekly excursions include a monthly coffee morning, ten pin bowling, museum visits and bowls challenges with Lynkz clients from NorthAble. Without this programme in place, many clients would not have the opportunity to interact socially with others outside of their home or residential setting.  According to Dr Tina Darkins, Centre Manager, clients enter the facility in the morning “full of enthusiasm and by the end leave with big smiles on their faces.  They just love it.”
Although the centre can cater for up to 40 clients, the present capacity is approximately 28 client visits due to Covid restrictions.  Clients can be self-referred by family members or through the Ministry of Health, District Health Board or ACC.  Referrals are constant and demand has increased due to a shortage of care workers in both the community and rest homes.  In keeping with their comprehensive approach to wellbeing, clients are closely monitored and referred to community organisations if required.
An additional unique aspect of Forget Me Not is the respite service for carers or family members.  Clients may attend the day programme for simply a few hours or one day a week.  This enables caregivers time to attend to their own needs or simply take a break from the demands of full-time caregiving.
Volunteer drivers safely transport clients to and from the day programme in the centre’s vans from various pick up points throughout Whangarei.  Those living outside the Whangarei area are dropped off by family members, caregivers or via the Miss Daisy driving service; which also caters for those in wheelchairs.  Drivers are assigned a designated route and a staff member accompanies each run to assist clients alighting and disembarking the van.
Staff in the centre’s council approved kitchen are kept busy preparing a daily mid day meal for clients in addition to nutritious and reasonably priced frozen meals.  Meals are available to the wider community and delivered weekly.  Alternatively, anyone requiring this service may visit the centre and select the meals of their choice.  This is a further example of fulfilling a community need and enabling the elderly and disabled to remain independent.
Dr Tina Darkins, Manager, attributes the organisation’s success to meeting a community demand, being “boutique” and possessing a very unified board and leadership structure.  This empowers and enables staff and volunteers to be self managing; everyone is respectful of each other and effort is recognized and rewarded.  The organisation invests time in their staff by training their diversional therapists and all staff undertake free first aid training every two years.  Volunteers regularly receive vouchers for costs incurred and in recognition of their time and effort.
Currently, Forget Me Not is urgently seeking two volunteer drivers and two activity helpers.
Volunteer drivers require a clean driving and police record, and must possess a calm and caring disposition.  Attributes required for activity helpers are a desire to “join in, learn alongside clients and enjoy helping a diverse range of people.” 
According to a volunteer who has been at the centre for eight years; “it is amazing to volunteer here.”  She gains great enjoyment and personal satisfaction through client interaction and their camaraderie and happy demeanour.  It was after dropping in one day and noticing the “welcoming homely atmosphere,” that she decided to volunteer herself.
If you enjoy making a difference in the lives of others, have patience and wish to contribute to the community in a happy and supportive atmosphere; then volunteering at the Forget Me Not Adult Day Centre may just be the perfect role for you.