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Helping local people to learn skills and progress on the pathway to full-time employment is at the heart of a social enterprise called Stepping Stones Lawns, based in Randwick Park, South Auckland.
Stepping Stones is a sub-contractor for Citycare Property in Randwick Park and its team of six part-time workers maintains the open spaces in the Manurewa neighbourhood.
Instead of employing a few full-time people, the social enterprise focuses on employing a larger number of part-time staff, Trust Manager Francois Viljoen said.
“It’s all about people’s capacity, creating small stepping-stones into employment, breaking the poverty cycle and generating hope for the future,” Francois said.
“We try to employ people from a long-term unemployment background and get them part-time work maintaining the parks while they develop skills to get ready for full-time work over the following year or 18 months,” he said.
There are six people on the team currently – three work 25 hours a week and another three work 15 hours – and some previous team members are working as a drainlayer, truck driver, and primary teacher or studying full-time.
The success of the social enterprise is its community ties as the local care and maintenance of the parks develops a sense of responsibility and ownership with the local caretakers becoming more conscious of their neighbourhood and wanting to make it an even better place to live, Stepping Stones Director Dave Tims said.
“The workers are interlinked with other neighbourhood projects and support such as being youth leaders, volunteers at community events and with the Randwick Residents Association, or providing food for the community from their church,” he said.
“Stepping Stones gives locals employment, but more importantly, it gives locals a space to contribute to the care of, and ownership of, our neighbourhood – so for many Stepping Stones is much more than just a job,” Dave said.
Stepping Stones began in 2015 and it has collaborated with Citycare Property since mid-2017. The not-for-profit group reinvests any profit back into the Randwick Park community.
Much of the Randwick Park population is Pasifika and Maori so the group reflects the community and at the moment it is an all-male crew.
“Everything about us is local – the group mostly walk to work and we don’t advertise for new staff, it’s all done by word of mouth,” Francois said.
For instance, the international church organisation behind the social enterprise – Urban Neighbours of Hope – runs a local youth group and might hear that one of the kids’ fathers needs a job.
As well as the parks work for Citycare, the Stepping Stones team also maintains grounds at local schools and preschools using their specialist commercial lawn mowing equipment.
There are eight parks in the suburb and a sports ground where touch rugby and league are played. There are two extra parks outside Randwick Park that they care for, too.
In 2019 and 2020 Stepping Stones was awarded an international Green Flag award for the quality green spaces in Randwick Park, one of 29 parks in New Zealand to receive this recognition.
Machine supervisor and operator Andre Diaz from Stepping Stones Lawns removes flax storks in Randwick Park.
David Wilson-Pu from Stepping Stones Lawns removes flax storks in Randwick Park.
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