Launch of Caring Caller Project - ChristchurchSenior Citizens
Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to join in the celebration to mark the launch of “Caring Caller”.
One thing I would like to say at the outset is that it is absolutely no surprise that St John should be behind yet another wonderfully innovative community project such as this one. There is no doubting the value of the services provided by St John for the community.
In acknowledging the work that St John does, I also want to pay tribute to the many volunteers of the Order of St John. This is particularly appropriate in this the International Year of the Volunteer. Can I thank you for your goodwill, dedication, energy and commitment. From driving to telephoning, to emergency services to youth training and development - you make an enormous contribution to every community in New Zealand.
And it’s for that reason that I feel privileged to join you today as both a Christchurch MP and as Minister for Senior Citizens. I didn’t actually anticipate being the Minister for Senior Citizens, largely because before the last election I was the Opposition Spokesperson on Youth Affairs. However, it didn’t take me long to realise that the issues were the same, and they revolved around two words: participation and belonging.
When I talked to young people they told me that feeling that they belonged was really important to them, and the ability to participate in their communities was critical to how they felt about themselves and how others felt about them.
Older New Zealanders gave me exactly the same message. This was the impetus for what has become NZ’s Positive Ageing Strategy, which outlines a vision for: "A society where people can age positively, where older people are highly valued and where they are recognised as an integral part of families and communities. New Zealand will be a positive place in which to age when older people can say that they live in a society that values them, acknowledges their contributions and encourages their participation. One of the measures of this is to ensure a range of support services, and access to them."
From that perspective, the “Caring Caller” project is an excellent initiative which has already made a real difference in the lives of many Aucklanders, and now it will be available to Christchurch residents, not only as recipients of the ‘caring call’, but also as caring callers themselves. What really appeals to me is that Caring Caller isn’t just about providing a safeguard in emergency situations, but is specifically geared to helping establish friendly and interested contact on a regular basis. Real friendships can be formed, albeit over the phone.
I noticed that the pamphlet for Caring Caller seeks people who like talking to people to take up the role of caring callers. When I listen to talk-back radio, I often feel that many people ring just for that direct contact with a voice at the end of the phone. So caring callers could be enhancing their own social contact as well enhancing the lives of many older New Zealanders. I urge those who have some spare minutes each day to take up the challenge offered by St John, and become a caring caller. You never know, it might be something we ourselves would appreciate in years to come.
So, in closing, congratulations again St John on another wonderful idea. When I attended a dedication ceremony for St John Health Shuttles, I described them as the ambulance at the top of the cliff. Caring Caller is another example of the ambulance at the top of the cliff, helping people stay healthy and involved in the community. I wish you all the best for the project, and officially welcome Caring Caller to Christchurch.