Free pilot to start



Queenstowner Mel Haarer isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to describing 2020.

It’s been ‘‘a complete shit show, let’s face it’’.

But she’s using her experience over the last couple of years, delivering wellbeing workshops to corporate clients, as a contractor, to benefit the wider community through a free pilot programme, starting early next month.

In 2017 Haarer, after a ‘‘series of traumatic events and seven years of grieving’’, spent 18 months researching isolation and ways to reduce vulnerability for others in the community.

‘‘As a result of that, knowing that grief has got five stages — one of which is depression — I wanted to raise awareness around that, which led to, essentially, raising mental health awareness.’’

Her subsequent workshop programme, delivered to the likes of Real Journeys, Millbrook Resort, Camp Glenorchy and Downer, proved ‘‘really beneficial and really well received’’.

When lockdown happened Haarer decided to stay the course and help people better look after themselves, and each other.

‘‘Everything I do is basically a preventative strategic framework — giving people tools to look after themselves before shit hits the fan.’’

She started a Facebook page, ‘Stig’s Army’, and put content on there, but after lockdown her client base ‘‘went tits up’’ because they didn’t know if they’d have resources to fund external services.

‘‘I thought I needed to carry on doing what I’m doing and I needed to pivot, like everybody else — I feel like an owl, my head’s just spinning.’’

After researching and meeting with support agencies, Haarer decided to run a community pilot programme, ‘Health and Happiness’, through Stig’s Army and was grateful to sponsorship from the Drury family and fundraising queen Kaye Parker who had provided the necessary funding to run the initial five-week programme in Arrowtown.

Haarer says there are five 90-minute workshops spread over five weeks — one day-time and one evening session each week, depending on which time suits better — provided free of charge, covering a variety of topics.

Workshops are capped at 20 each.

‘‘Depending on the results of that, the army’s going to be moving across, in military fashion, to the next area of the community, which will be Shotover Country and Lake Hayes.’’

From there she hopes to train up ‘‘volunteer wellbeing motivators’’ to help reinforce the five ways to wellbeing participants learn through the programme.

Haarer says now, more than ever, it’s clear the community at large is in a grieving process.

‘‘Grieving is the loss of something that’s close to your heart.

‘‘It’s not necessarily the loss of a person, it could be the loss of a job, or the idea you can go and visit family overseas, people’s health is suffering, whether it’s physical or emotional.

‘‘We’re right in the thick of grieving for many of us in the Wakatipu.

‘‘It’s important to manage it and if people don’t have those skills and knowledge and awareness and education to know how to effectively manage it, it makes it even more challenging.

‘‘It’s interesting in that everything I’ve done has been driven from the grieving process and I just want to help people better look after themselves and each other.’’

Form more information on the programme, which officially starts on November 3, see ‘Stig’s Army’ on Facebook.