Building Mates Leader, Clare-The-Builder – pure legend
Kia ora koutou e te whānau

To those who are paying close attention, you’ll have spotted in last week’s newsletter, mention of exciting news… so… here it is 🙂 


An utterly cool plan that has been a looooong time in the dreaming and hoping has finally come into being, as a Pilot Programme.

At Taranaki Retreat we so often find that our men, in particular, do not engage well with a traditional therapeutic model; being accustomed to avoid opening up and sharing what may be interpreted as weakness. It’s almost like we’re hard-wired to clam up…. Yup, we’re not the best at it. And that needs to change… We simply can’t get through everything and anything without a shoulder to lean on.

The prospect of sitting facing a counsellor and ‘opening up’ leaves many of us cold, and such supports are avoided. Worst are younger guys… and kinda middlingly old-timers like myself.

However, get us working on a project along with a bunch of others; chuck a couple of Peer Support Workers into the mix, bring on a qualified builder who knows their stuff, without even realising it, we’re opening up to support, sharing our story over coffee/smoko, and picking up not only the physical tools in the workshop, but the support tools that we so need.

Since Clare started offering the programme, there have been moments when I’ve been reduced to tears (manly ones, of course….!) – both through laughter, delight and simply being humbled at the depth of what I’ve seen. It’s the GOLD. It’s true holistic prevention work at its finest.

Those taking part have already got stuck into:

  • Landscaping and building projects (stuff like constructing fences / making enclosures / building steps)
  • Projects from Pallets (these are utterly cool) – stuff like beautiful planters, shelves, boxes…
  • The coolest homebrew workshop equipment (eg a custom-made drill/driver bit holder – so you can actually FIND stuff) that I’ve ever seen
  • A total re-conversion of the Retreat’s Storage Shed into an awesome team workshop

All this has only been possible thanks to the sponsorship of Mitre 10 Mega, New Plymouth. Humbling to see such generosity in action.

Building the skills; creating something; using your hands – it changes stuff. However, power tools are a requirement for that to happen – and are where the real fun starts! Mitre 10 Mega’s generosity has included the full sponsorship of the equipment – a comprehensive list including the best in landscaping tools; skillies, drills, drivers, chargers, saws, angle-grinders… PPE…   

Today we shout out to the amazing team there, for caring so much – and, on behalf of every single person who will take part in the programme – THANK YOU. I encourage all of us to show our appreciation by making our presence felt in the local Mitre 10 Mega when the DIY urge hits us… The guys are the real-deal legends there.

Why Building Mates?

….because it’s all about connections; and it’s not just about guys, either. It’s about all of us. 

Shaun Robinson, Spokesperson for the Mental Health Foundation commented, in response to a sobering report on the scale of loss to suicide within the construction industry: “Suicide prevention is something for all New Zealanders to work on, but the most effective suicide prevention initiatives are tailored to the environments and cultures of people at risk. In the case of the construction industry, pilots of programmes in New Zealand and Australia have found that initiatives targeted at people who work in the construction industry can prevent suicide and improve mental health and wellbeing.”
That’s what we’re all about.

Know someone who might find the hands-on approach helpful (suitable for teens and upwards) pick up some skills, and get a listening ear in the workshop environment? Tell them the story.

Keen to support? Here’s the wishlist (think Build-Bank – like a foodbank, but gruntier):

  • Timber: pallets, exterior H3.2 timber 150 x25 ,100×50 45×45, Interior timber 90×45. We need timber that’s at least 2m long and denailed
  • Bits n pieces: Exterior screws – galv bugle and hex heads and interior screws of all lengths. Nails all lengths 
  • Stuff: Big Dustbins, rags, clamps

Can you help out with any of the above? Drop Clare an email on                           [email protected]