The 'Here 2 help u' team have supported thousands of local people since the start of the pandemic

From the Momentum Waikato Annual Report 2021 - see full report in PDF.

The Houchen’s Retreat took key steps in its development as a community wellness village through late 2020 and into 2021, while also continuing to be a reliable platform for the region’s Covid response.

The attractive campus on the south-western edge of Hamilton was gifted to Momentum Waikato by the Houchen’s family in 2019, with the Wise Group then taking on its management and development as both tenant and partner.

As reported in last year’s Annual Report, the arrival of the pandemic meant the initial push to turn the former clerical retreat into a wellness facility was initially side-lined by its use as a relief kitchen.

That food operation was the first element in what soon became the ‘Here to help u’ wellbeing and support service driven by the Wise Group and Community Waikato.

While the local sector’s coordinated food relief operation peaked during the 2020 lockdown, when the Claudelands event centre kitchen was at work, Houchen’s has continued to cook for those in need across the region, with some five thousand prepared meals having gone out the door to date.

Overall, as of late 2021, ‘Here to help u’ has supported twenty-five thousand people with a range of wellbeing help and/or food, grown its provider base from sixteen to two hundred, and expanded its footprint from Hamilton and surrounds to South Waikato, Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty.

The community co-design of the wellness village did pick up pace in the second half of 2020, with its plan report landing in May 2021.

That process saw the Wise Group hear local voices, with the call being for opportunities to form social and community connections, whether it be across generations and cultures, or for those facing similar challenges or phases of life.

Programmes now planned for Houchen’s include exercise, meditation and Rongoaa Maaori sessions, and a garden supporting growing and cooking classes. A Mama Peepee space will be based in the original homestead, which will provide mothers and their babies with a quiet space with nursery and wellbeing support. All are due to be rolled out once renovations are complete.

As a supportive asset manager, Momentum is pleased to see and support the development of Houchen’s and intends to use it as a model for the provision of similar wellness villages across the region.