Compassionate response to unemployment
2001. While watching a slide presentation of underprivileged children from India at a house group meeting, Ken and Wendy Fraser were impressed that God wanted them to help unemployed people in the Hutt Valley (in New Zealand).
Ken was unemployed at the time and understood the difficulties of being out of work and rejected.
They discussed their vision with Ray Harrison, founder of International Needs, who spoke at the house group. Later, they discussed it with the New Zealand Director of International Needs. From this meeting their vision became solid.
Ken believed God wanted Wendy and himself to “prime the well” for thirty-six months funding everything themselves to establish a place to train and equip unemployed people.
They did not look for donations from the Christian community or International Needs. Their relationship with International Needs is primarily that of prayer support.
Someone suggested to them that they approach the Department of Conservation to see if they could form a base at Dry Creek, Manor Park. After much discussion and negotiation, a lease for 10 years was granted, then later extended.
That was eighteen years ago. From rebuilding a derelict woolshed that took a dedicated team of workers eighteen months to establish, co-founder Mrs Fraser does not stress enough the amount of hardship and teamwork that goes into running ACTS Institute.
“It has been hard. There has been so much of God’s leading. It’s a big story of God’s provision.”
Peter McCardle, Manager of the Department of Labour at the time, noted the positive outcomes with ACTS’ trainees. They were asked to consider a contract under a government-training scheme and since 1986 contracts have been renewed annually. Mrs Fraser is pleased funding for 2002 has been confirmed by Skill New Zealand.
“If kids make any changes in their lives that is success for us. We want to get them interested in living,” Mrs Fraser says. Bruce Billington, Executive Trustee, says outcomes are measured by the change in people’s lives and sometimes it takes some years for that to come to fruition.
ACTS has also been given permission to resurrect a horticulture component of their course. There is no extra funding for it, but Mrs Fraser hopes it will be incorporated into the daily activities of the institute. ACTS is divided into two geographical areas. The core work is at Dry Creek, Manor Park. Computer skills, employment skills and adventure training are provided for up to twenty-two fifteen – seventeen-year-olds. The skills are taught at the base level and are credited towards New Zealand National Certificates.
The trainees leave school with no qualifications and come from various backgrounds. Work and Income New Zealand, Child Youth and Family and Youth Justice often supply trainees, and some are granted exemptions from their schools to attend.
In Lower Hutt ACTS caters for fourteen Work Based Training clients and runs WINZ’s “Steps to Work”. Clients are eighteen plus and are long-term unemployed, sometimes referred by Work Bridge.
ACTS encountered one young man who slept in the back of an unused car with a bag of meagre possessions by the Hutt River. When ACTS became involved, they had the resources that could make a change in his circumstances. “We loved him, cared for him, fed him and provided options for him,” Mrs Fraser says. He went on to complete his heavy trade license followed by related employment.
A lot of the teenagers lack capabilities at seeing ways out of their problems. Mrs Fraser says ACTS offers positive stimulus and the trainees can take hold of that and move on. They want to get trainees onto the “starting line of life”, to build confidence and a belief in their ability. Staff are in continual dialogue with students about what they want to do with their lives. They look at avenues for students in the wider training world and the workplace. “The rewards have been amazing,” says Mrs Fraser. “I have seen God’s hand in the staff’s lives and the kid’s lives to see what God does in a team of people committed to him together.”
By Peter Veugelaers.
Published 2000, Challenge Weekly