Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Putting skills to good use

Avatar photo
Propelled by an Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) escalator programme Jane Wright founded the Hospice Mid Canterbury Trust.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Hospice Mid Canterbury Trust founder and rural wellbeing advocate Jane Wright demonstrates what happens when purpose-led women are empowered with the skills and confidence and connections to impact the people and places they care about. Photo: Annette Scott

A commitment to compassion has seen Jane Wright make the healthcare outcomes of her local community her personal responsibility. She talked with Annette Scott about what drives her enthusiasm for rural health and wellbeing.

Propelled by an Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) escalator programme Jane Wright founded the Hospice Mid Canterbury Trust.

The community hospice service provides therapies and programmes supporting families dealing with life-limiting illness.

A former schoolteacher, followed by a family farming career, for Wright the hospice trust is about putting her leadership into tangible action.

She has had her own development journey through AWDT, starting with ‘It’s all about You’ (formerly First Steps) in 2012 and then went on to complete the AWDT Escalator programme in 2013.

The Escalator programme was the catalyst for her work in establishing the hospice trust.

“With the tools and confidence I had gained through the programme I set out on a mission to establish a hospice service in the Ashburton district,” Wright said.

Driven by her decision to make the healthcare outcomes of her Mid Canterbury community and building on a farming career spanning arable, dairy, irrigation and more recently kiwifruit, Wright founded the Hospice Mid Canterbury Trust.

Her leadership is about empowering regional communities with world-leading health and education services.

As an AWDT Escalator graduate, Wright demonstrates what happens when purpose-led women are empowered with the skills and confidence and connections to impact the people and places they care about.

“I would never have had the confidence to take this project on without having completed the Escalator programme that gave me the tools to keep going and work through the many challenges along the way,” she said.

“I have had to dip back into my Escalator toolbox many times and have been extremely grateful for the support I have had from fellow alumni throughout the journey.

“There is always someone there who has the relevant expertise or experience to help point you in the right direction or simply encourage you to keep going.

“It certainly helped having such a great team of fellow alumni who would always motivate and reinvigorate me whenever we got together.”

The Hospice Mid Canterbury Trust was established in 2014 and began offering services in 2015.

“We now have our own purpose-designed building, employ five staff and contract eight service providers,” she said.

“We have more than 100 volunteers and most importantly, we are currently supporting over 100 individuals and families from throughout the district.”

The trust also runs a hospice shop in the town.

“Because we took time to identify the needs of the community, the resulting buy-in from our community has been excellent,” she said.

“By far the most satisfying aspect of the organisation is the amazing team of people who have come together to contribute to its success.”

A community-led organisation, the key driver is tailoring services to suit the needs of the regional district, which includes a largely rural population.

The hospice offers its services throughout the district, wherever is most appropriate for the person giving equity of access to support.

“Often organisations in the main centres assume that everyone can access them, but huge distances are compounded even further when people have extreme health challenges,” she said.

Support is non-clinical and is provided to complement the existing medical system.

“We focus on supporting the person with the life-limiting condition as well as their caregiver and families,” she said.

“We offer counselling, bereavement support, a variety of therapies, activities and support programmes, in addition to volunteer services such as biography writing, transport and companionship.”

The hospice trust receives no government funding.

“We are reliant on fundraising ventures and the generosity of our community and funding agencies,” she said.

Wright says she feels privileged to have had the opportunity to establish such a much-needed community organisation and its related services.

“I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to do this and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved,” she said.

“I’m constantly humbled by the people who have joined the team to make it what it is.

“Our success going forward will be dependent on us keeping the needs of our community at the forefront and being prepared to be flexible.

“Rural communities are good at supporting one another, but we can certainly add to that support.”

Isolation becomes even more exacerbated when people are facing health challenges.

“Generally, people who are no longer on their farm still have a strong connection to the land and miss it hugely,” she said.

“They really value the opportunity to talk about what’s happening on the land, how the harvest is going and so on, and not all of them have family around to have those conversations with.”

Maintaining rural wellbeing is a challenging time for everyone on so many levels.

“We are at a stage where, as a society, we are working to find solutions that are more sustainable for the environment, but at the same time we need to find ways to make our communities more sustainable also,” she said.

“It’s important for communities to work together in identifying their own needs and being proactive at finding ways to meet those needs.

“One of our faults in regional districts is how stoic people can tend to be and are reluctant to seek support.

“It can be a huge relief to people when they do eventually reach out for support and find that it’s not such a big deal and the small things can make a big difference.”

The changing world of communication brings its own challenges for rural communities.

“Things are changing so quickly but technology in our regional areas is really lagging behind,” she said.

“There’s a lot of emphasis being placed on tele-health, but we simply don’t have the connectivity in so many of our rural areas to be able to use these services effectively.

“Since we started, I have talked about harnessing the capability of our community and that has been the real success of this organisation.”

People are also reading