Wellington.scoop.co.nz » Porirua children lose free after-school music lessons and food
Wellington.scoop.co.nz » Porirua children lose free after-school music lessons and food

Report from RNZ
More than 70 young people from a low decile school area in Porirua will no longer be able to access free after school music lessons and kai following a funding cancellation.

This week the Porirua City Council rejected Virtuoso Strings Charitable Trust’s bid to retain funding for the next two years for its after school programme, which teaches music, physical activities and provides a meal to local school students, including children from refugee families, from decile 1 and 2 schools in Cannon’s Creek.

Community Co-Ordinator of the programme Nina Nimarota says while music and sport are important, it’s the loss of kai that will have the biggest impact.

Nina Nimarota says the food provided through the programme is the main meal for many families in the community. “The kids are always excited to come down to the programme because it’s the biggest meal. Then they go home, get changed and go to sleep,” she says. “They are the… vulnerable families we have here in Porirua. Some of these kids [and] some of the parents really struggle. It’s a big loss.”

In 2018 the council granted $157,000 to establish the after-school programme to Virtuoso Strings in conjunction with Ole Football Academy, which oversaw physical activities. The programme has been running since the start of the year.

“It’s an after school sanctuary. It’s a safe place. It’s a fun place. It’s a happy place,” Virtuoso Strings founder Liz Sneyd says.

Sneyd says if new funding isn’t found soon, the Virtuoso Strings after school programme will be shut down at the end of September. At least $55,000 is needed to keep the programme going in the fourth school term.

“That’s the bit we’re not looking forward to – telling the kids,” she says. “It’s not nice to say things are changing so quickly after it’s started.”

About 20 employees will also be affected, including kitchen staff and young mentors.

Seventeen-year-old Toloa Faraimo is one of the mentors at the programme. He’s come through Virtuoso Strings learning violin and was part of an octet that won People’s Choice at the recent Chamber Music New Zealand Contest.

He says he relates to the students involved in the programme. “I was one of these kids once. I didn’t have an opportunity to learn soccer or to play the violin,” he says. “These kids have this opportunity and to see them light up the way I did; to see them excited to play the violin [is great].”

He gets paid for his role as a mentor but says he’d still volunteer even if he wasn’t getting paid. “I’m more upset that the funding has been cut for the programme and the fact it won’t actually function,” he says. “Getting paid was an extra bonus but I’m more motivated to teach kids. It’s a way of giving back.”

The funding for the programme was given to the group as part of the council’s Making an Impact Fund which focused on partnerships between organisations within the community.

The council was to fund two more years of the programme but voted it down this week because the relationship between Virtuoso Strings and Ole Football Academy had become “untenable”.

According to council papers the Academy declined mediation to work through the collaboration with Virtuoso Strings.

Sneyd petitioned to find another collaborator and retain some council funding, but that was turned down by the council too. Virtuoso Strings will be able to reapply for council funding in 2021.

Porirua City Deputy Mayor Izzy Ford said in a Facebook post that while the decision to stop funding the programme was “beyond disappointing” it was the “most fair and transparent way forward”.

She said both organisations are “hugely” successful individually and will continue to “carry on, just not together”.

Ole Football Academy Chair Dave Wilson says the funding cancellation will not affect the other programmes run by the Academy. He says the Academy will continue to offer 20 to 25 other programmes in the community including in schools and street football.

Liz Sneyd says the after school programme will close but Virtuoso Strings will continue offering other opportunities to those in the community including the orchestra, which has performed with Sol3 Mio and Orchestra Wellington in the past two years, and won the People’s Choice award at the recent NZCT Chamber Music contest: