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Funding stories

The Community Builders NZ Trust

Focus area: Increased Equity
Image credit: Liam Shaw
The Community Builders NZ Trust

The Community Builders NZ Trust has been strengthening the resilience of the Ōtara community for the last three years.

The Community Builders is a resident-led, grassroots movement with a vision to change community mindsets and behaviours relating to food, health, and wellbeing. In the South Auckland suburb of Ōtara, where access to healthy foods is low and inequity is deeply present, the goal of the Trust is to educate and encourage community members to foster change in their own communities.

A group of people smiling outside of a cafe.
Image credit: Liam Shaw

Through the Community Innovation Fund, Foundation North awarded $200,000 to support three of The Community Builders’ Ōtara-based projects. The first was The Pātaka Kai Open Street Pantry – a “take what you need, leave what you can” initiative responding to growing food waste issues in New Zealand. The project encourages the rescuing of food and re-distributing it to families struggling across the country. As part of this project, The Trust also support and mentor over 100 Pātaka Kai kaitiaki (guardians) and provide educational workshops in schools to address food waste issues.

The Fund also supported Ōtara Kai Village which was established in response to the limited access to healthy food available in the community. The food village, based in the Ōtara town centre, was started by transforming a 40ft container into a food hub and designing an urban garden. At the kai village, fresh and healthy produce is sold at low prices, with the money raised going back into sustaining the project and creating social outcomes for the community.

The grant also went towards My Street Project – a community-led initiative designed to improve the civic engagement of the Ōtara community, helping members recognise their own ability to lead, engage and self-determine collectively. The project was established on the knowledge that Ōtara residents are often disconnected from many of the processes that enable them to collectively voice and make changes to improve their lives. The programme seeks to empower the community, by providing leadership development, training, and mentoring to residents who are keen to become change-makers in their own areas.

“Never do for a community what they can do for themselves. Not only does the Otara Kai Village help to build more community leaders, it also brings social change using the resources our communities already have. Organisation is an empowering experience as it can lead to innovation and real change, one that wouldn't happen effectively if we were to just help them without involving them.”
- Swanie Nelson, CEO of The Community Builders NZ Trust
"If neighbourhoods are at the heart of communities, then families are at the heart of our neighbourhoods. The benefits of strong and healthy families feed outwards into the neighbourhood and the community, and the neighbourhood and community, in turn, feed back into the strength of the family."
- Swanie Nelson, CEO of The Community Builders NZ Trust​​