I am currently in Gisborne, doing visits to schools to speak about writing and to help promote the Dare Foundation's Life Skills programmes I wrote several years back. These programmes are especially designed for youth at risk, though they are just as effective for so-called 'ordinary' kids as well.
Every time I spend time with the Dare 'family' I come away filled with respect and admiration for the wonderful people who work their butts off every day in order to help improve kids' lives - teachers, youth workers, facilitators, co-ordinators, voluntary committee members, and police - to educate them, empower them, and model loving behaviour towards them.
What is patently clear, however, is that, despite the government's crowing over their economic management, out in the real world people are really struggling. Families are in crisis, money is scarce or non-existent, and the people at the coal face (trying to sort this mess) are grossly underfunded and stressed.
Here in Gisborne they are also struggling under the weight of inter-generational mental health issues. The support services are inadequate, and community organisations are forced to spend hours of (often fruitless) energy writing funding applications for a few measly dollars,while the government-backed institutions who should be carrying the load are top-heavy in highly paid managers and clinicians and light on real support.
What these silent heroes would give for just a portion of the millions our government has seen fit to hand out to overseas corporations such as Rio Tinto and Warner Brothers. There might be money moving freely through the hands of John Key's buddies in the stock market, banks and big business ventures but there is a huge shortfall in the provinces and blue-collar suburbs. People are doing it hard, unable to make ends meet and falling back onto the old crutches of alcohol and drugs in order to escape their worries. Do I blame them? No. It's sad and it's frustrating (and harmful) but it's a grind at the bottom of the pile, especially when one is never offered a hand up out of the hole. Yet the blanket response of those who have already feathered their own nests is to play the blame game, damning the victims instead of looking at the disgraceful structural racism, economic disparity and selfish nepotism of those who control the purse strings.
Don't buy into the spin that some kind of miraculous economic recovery is underway, or that this government is helping those in need. They are throwing away the last vestiges of our social democracy and leaving communities to struggle and founder unaided while they hoover up all the resources for themselves (or sell them to the highest overseas bidder.)
It is a salient reminder for each of us to vote for the greater good - putting our own greedy desires aside to support those who have been side-lined and dis-empowered. If we all did this, we would gain far more than we ever had to give up. Crime would be reduced, the health budget would stretch further, our kids would grow up to become civic-minded, positive members of society (who felt valued and listened to.)
So here's a shout out to the heroes at the coal-face - those thousands of good-hearted people who keep on giving, even when they have no resources except their knowledge, love and dedication. And here's a big shut-down to our so-called 'leaders', who have failed in their duty of care.