Bringing whānau together at Glenview School
08 May 2023
Welcome to the Whānau Lounge, a space where parents come together to chat and hang out. Located on the grounds of Glenview School in Porirua, the lounge is an initiative to empower māmā and whānau.
Anne Somerville is the whānau liaison at Glenview School, and you’ll often find her in the lounge, across the playground, or at school events.
Her job is to bring the people together who need it most.
“My absolute passion in this job is to work with parents. My role is to awhi and empower women of the Glenview community.”
A place to come together
Around three years ago the lounge was built, following the redesign of the primary school campus. Anne and Glenview School principal Lynda Knight-de Blois were inspired by social justice advocate and author Celia Lashlie’s ideology, and decided to set up their own initiative to serve the wider community.
Two storerooms became one, and couches and coffee and tea making facilities were brought in to set up a space for parents and grandparents to come together. The door is always open for whānau to come and have a cuppa and connect with the school community.
“Glenview is a small school that has a community where children who start school often have family members who are around and not working, and then slowly, they get more and more involved with employment. The Whānau Lounge is there to help facilitate that.”
At the moment, it’s all hands on deck for Garden to Table, a nationwide programme supporting tamariki to grow, harvest, eat and share kai.
“There’s a parent whittling away right now in the lounge sewing aprons for our tamariki to wear,” says Anne.
She hopes the programme will not only empower tamariki, but mātua mātua Parents - plural form of matua Maori | Noun , too. Everyone will be involved.
It’s these core principles of involvement and empowerment that form a baseline of what the Whānau Lounge does.
Meeting the needs of the community
Often found in the pick-up zones or playground chatting to whānau, Anne likes to prioritise one-on-one support to help ease the load of life for caregivers with primary school-aged tamariki who often have under-fives at home.
One of Anne’s favourite things to do is to send māmā a text. During lockdown, she sent many texts out to whānau, just to check in.
“I think for many of our mums, I’m a shoulder to lean on because I’m older and they know me as part of the school culture.”
Since its inception different cultural groups have come forward and come together, creating Facebook pages and inviting each other for weekly coffee catch ups. The lounge is just a physical fixture to help make this happen.
With a background in education and leadership, Anne hopes other schools will take inspiration.
“Initiatives like these can make a real difference,” she says.