Springboard Trust has an incredible network of tūao / volunteers, who dedicate so much of their time to supporting tumuaki across the country. But for many of them, our programmes are just one of many ways in which they give back to our communities.
Vanessa McHardy is one such volunteer. Having returned to Aotearoa from the UK at the end of 2020, she leapt at the opportunity to work with Springboard Trust – particularly as it was such a good complement to her own Same Sea, Different Boats programme (Ngā waka rerekē kei roto i te moana) for schools.
Bringing the learning to Aotearoa
A trained psychotherapist and counsellor who has worked in schools for more than 20 years, Vanessa has spent eight years running the Life Skills for Mental Health and Wellbeing programme, winning awards for her How Are You Feeling communication system. In addition to that she developed What Happens at the Point of Not Understanding, a researched programme delivering great results for children, notably those who are neurodiverse. Stemming from this, Vanessa developed the Same Sea, Different Boats programme to support school communities with their wellbeing in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a programme about space, really – giving teachers, students, the whole community the space to process their feelings and stressors in their own way. We bring in some scientific work around neuroscience and information about our stress responses, help with therapeutic ways of dealing with that, and have an big historic element where participants record their responses in a more permanent way.”
For many schools who have taken part in the programme, that has taken the form of a combined quilt, with pieces created by each student that express their feelings about the current situation – the often-intangible made real and permanent. As Vanessa explains, the output from these exercises can be incredibly far-reaching.
“Even just over the course of one hour, the very first session often, you see the physical change in people as they come away with tools for supporting themselves from a wellbeing perspective. Individuals start to acknowledge and address the smallest things, like drinking enough water, that haven’t been given space because they’re so focused on others.”
“That all builds to this wonderful collective sense of yes, we need to look after each other and ourselves, and having the space to do that safely.”
This sense of space is a common refrain in feedback on Springboard Trust programmes as well. School leaders are often so tied up in their roles or the daily operations of a school that dedicating time and space to something – be it their response to COVID-19 or their annual plan – can radicalise the way they think about it in the day-to-day.