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UC students transform CDHB mental health services space

01 November 2019

A chance conversation at the shared Manawa facility has resulted in a mutually beneficial project to transform an assessment room at community mental health service Whakataka House.


CHCH101 students put theory into practice by getting involved in community projects such as this project at CDHB mental health facility Whakataka House.

A chance conversation at Manawa, the Health Research and Education venture shared by Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), University of Canterbury (UC) and Ara Institute of Canterbury, has resulted in a mutually beneficial project to transform an assessment room at community mental health service Whakataka House.

For students from UC’s CHCH101 course, it was the perfect opportunity to practice their skills. The course allows students to integrate up to 20 hours of hands-on community engagement projects.

Associate Professor of Community Engagement, Dr Billy Osteen teaches the CHCH101 Strengthening Communities through Social Innovation course. "Doing the activity room makeover project at Whakatata House was a great opportunity for the students to put into practice what we had been exploring about community engagement,” he says. “It required them to consult with the Whakatata House staff as to what they wanted to see with regard to a child friendly and inviting space. The students took all of this on board and were very intentional and considerate as to choosing artwork and activities.

“All in all, this project provided the students with real world experiences in budgeting, consultation, project management, and implementation. This all was possible with a generous donation by Z Energy."

After having their concept plans approved, the students spent half a day at Whakatata House putting the plan into action and transforming the space.

Community Mental Health Nurse, Sandra Heemi, said that the difference was remarkable. “Billy and the students did a great job and helped transform our room from a very dull impersonal space into somewhere we feel pleased to welcome whanau, clients and professionals alike. They made it a safe, welcoming and fun space and we are incredibly grateful. I find myself going into the room everyday just to look at it – it is so cool!”

The CDHB-run facility provides child, adolescent and family mental health services.

The Manawa partnership has facilitated relationships between UC, CDHB and Ara with many projects resulting from the closer collaboration.

This project is tangible evidence that the Manawa building partnership is inspiring cross-organisational connection, Becky Hickmott, CDHB Nurse Manager – Nursing Workforce Development, says.

“This speaks to the heart of the relationship and collaboration we have now within Manawa and the support from Te Papa Hauora [the Christchurch Health Precinct] strategic partnerships. We value so much the way UC made this happen and the impact it has had for the people at the centre of our services.”

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