New Queenstown 'Women's Shed' receives funding boost

Dec 04, 2023

A builder on a mission to get more women on tools nailing carpentry projects is one recipient of the latest round of community funding for Southern Lakes projects improving mental wellbeing, social connection and resilience.

The Queenstown Women's Shed set up shop in August, and founder and tutor Alex van Dam now has 60 women of all ages and ethnicities keen to learn.

The former Auckland tradie runs an ‘Intro to Tools’ workshop, where participants learn to building birdhouses while, a step up, ‘Intro to Carpentry’ has participants building furniture. 

The initiative is one of 110 to receive a share of $91,500 in funding from the Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group, set up in 2020 in response to community-wide mental health impacts as a result of Covid-19.

“We’re strong mental health advocates and are keen to provide a safe, inclusive environment to empower women not only to learn how to confidently use tools but to connect socially, make new friends and have fun,” Ms van Dam says.

“Our membership is skyrocketing and the women involved are feeling really good about volunteering their time and new skills to help local community organisations and the wider community.

“We’re partnering with the Community Harvest Gardens to build them an outdoor community pantry and then we’re planning to build cabins or a tiny home so that we can auction them off and donate the profits to a mental health charity.” 

It's the second-to-last funding round for the Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group, with each successful applicant receiving up to $1,000 to help facilitate community-led activities over the next few months.

Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group chair Adell Cox says the response and calibre of applications were “simply outstanding”.

“Applications increased nearly 40 percent – up from a record number last time – which shows how motivated our communities are to improve their wellbeing.

"We’ve done our best to fund as many groups as possible to get their activities underway.”

Another new initiative funded is Cromwell Community House hosting and co-facilitating ‘Working Well’ Tradies Breakfasts.

“Our aim is to bring small groups of businesses together over breakfast to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and fitness in a group setting which is less confronting than one-to-one. We’ll also share the Five Ways to Wellbeing and how these can be applied in construction and trade settings,” Cromwell Community House Manager Karen Palmer says.

Other recipients include international community cooking workshops at Queenstown’s Happiness House, carer get-togethers in Queenstown and Cromwell, youth-led weekly Pickleball sessions for youth and parents at Wānaka's new Paetara Aspiring Central, ‘Make it MINT’ upcycling workshops for individuals with disabilities by MINT Trust and Wānaka Community Workshop, ‘Netwalking’ run by the Queenstown Business Chamber, a Queenstown Lakes Clued Up Kids programme, volunteer welfare resources for St John’s Central Otago Major Incident Support Team, and a range of community Christmas activities. 

Te Hau Toka introduced the Connecting Communities fund in November 2021 and, since then, there have been seven funding rounds, 439 recipients and more than $410,000 injected across Queenstown, Wānaka, Cromwell, and Fiordland.

With the Covid-related government funding coming to a close, the final Connecting Communities funding round is set for April 8 to 18, 2024. Eligible not-for-profit groups can apply for up to $1,000 including GST to support community-focused mental wellbeing initiatives. 

Main image (Supplied): On the tools at The Women’s Shed, Queenstown, left to right, are Marjolie, Sharon, Lydia, Maira Louise, and Lucy.

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