In Focus: Comsup

by Helen Martin
Every month a community meeting, known as Comsup, is held for South Kaipara people who represent a wide range of support agencies and organisations in Helensville, most of them working within the community.
Jo Chiswell, a child health social worker employed by the Waitemata DHB and based at Helensville’s Community Health Centre, shares the chairperson role with counsellor and Peacemakers manager Andrew Connolly. The Helensville Women and Family Centre take responsibility for the minute-taking and other admin duties.
“People are really passionate about Helensville and want it to be a thriving community. The purpose is to strengthen our community by sharing our support information. It’s the ripple effect concept,” says Jo. “I tell somebody, they tell somebody else etc. It’s a formal way of sharing informal support and an excellent community networking forum for people sharing information. We’re not strict about membership. Anybody can come, but they do need to be representing a community organisation, agency or initiative. It’s valuable for people who’ve started new jobs as it helps them get a handle on what’s available in Helensville. We talk about what we can offer our families and clients, but we never discuss them individually. Some amazing ideas have been seeded at those meetings. You get energised by what others are doing, and people put their hands up to be involved in initiatives like the community garden and the recycle centre. It’s the contagion of positivity.”
Community Health Centre administrator Janice Bristow, who has worked at the centre for 19 years, has seen Comsup grow in strength and numbers. “Comsup meetings started off with a public health nurse who worked here 30 years ago in the early 1990s. She got a small group of like-minded people in the health care professions together – counsellors, social workers, etc. - and it grew from there. Now around 40 organisations attend the meetings, with a mix of non-government organisations (NGOs) and government organisations.”
Jo thinks South Kaipara is remarkable for the range and depth of support it offers and the Comsup meeting is a platform for this.” My job is based in Rodney and West Auckland and the Comsup meeting is unique to our area. While the first point of contact for newcomers to Helensville is often the Citizens Advice Bureau, we also have many other support organisations including a women’s centre, a men’s trust, Te Ha Oranga, a Mâori iwi provider, a community health centre with visiting clinicians who provide a diabetic clinic and podiatry, we have parent aid, HIPPY and many others. For a small population, our South Kaipara families are very well served.”

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