Tag Archives: Playcentre

Saying a warm farewell to a wonderful influence in my life

I learnt on Monday this week that a woman who influenced so much of my life had passed away aged 90 years.

Marie Bell’s name first came into my consciousness as a young child when my parents spoke of her and when my uncle (who was a colleague of hers) visited us. In the way that young children absorb things I knew that this woman was special and respected.

As a committee member of Wellington Parents Centre back in 1982 I met Marie for the first time. She ran some group skills training sessions for us and my notes indicate that in the first session we covered:
Welcoming techniques; feedback from practical exercises we participated in: a group discussion using the “fish bowl” technique; more feedback; introducing a film, how to use films in an ante-natal class; a general session to finish up the day.

All the time she was training us Marie would be saying “you can do this.” She was so encouraging and so passionately of the opinion that these skills were to be passed on by her and then from us to other parent volunteers. Learning through the experiential techniques she used, we came to realise that she was right. Empowerment happened.

For me the following points were gems from Marie and they were points that I carried in my facilitator’s toolkit and which I believe are still vital and timeless in any group situation:
 Establish ground rules at any group meeting using group input to set these up
 Time spent in planning every detail of a group pays off – the relationship with the group is critical
 Things that look informal work the best in terms of getting feedback from the group
 Prepare a climate for participation
 Seek solutions – involve all group members

People and relationships were key to Marie. She cared deeply for humans of every age and for their health and well-being across all relationships. Her early childhood work reached my parents as they raised me and reached me at Playcentre with our third child.

Her adult education skills reached me through out all my years in Parents Centre. I was aware of her political voice in the Labour Party, her roles at Victoria University and her magnificent achievement later in life as she completed her PhD documenting the early pioneers of Parents Centre.

A story that she told, that has stayed with me, was, of a course in Assertiveness that she and some other women in Wellington set up in the 1970s. This was new stuff and the organizers only expected a handful of women to enroll. Hundreds, in fact, indicated their interest and in true style Marie and her group accommodated this and the courses ran with tremendous results and ongoing ripple effects.

I have so much to thank Marie for. She taught me a love of facilitation and the skills to use and so many other life long skills – listening, assertiveness, setting up a group, running effective meetings, group dynamics, parenting, healthy relationships and all the while she modelled of all these skills with an openness, a warmth and a wonderful sense of humour and care.

She was about grass roots movements, life long learning, empowerment, inclusion, peacefulness, healthy people, healthy relationships, early childhood education, the importance of the child’s holistic well being and development, women’s rights, the important role that men play in families and so many other positive causes.

Her influence has spread far and wide and her legacy will live on in so many ways.

Arohanui Marie


The map is not the territory

On Monday I visited a photographic exhibition “All Woman – a modern Portrait of New Zealand Women” by photographer Bev Short.

Tanja and Te Kaahurangi Maioha

The portraits are of New Zealand women ranging in age from teen to 90 years old and who have achieved in disparate activities and often against the odds.

I loved this exhibition. Alongside each portrait was a “story” or short biography about the woman pictured. I adore people’s stories. So I read eagerly.

Within many of the stories were little connections that matched my experiences as a female born in the 1950’s being buffeted by gender discrimination; growing in awareness in the 60’s and 70’s; volunteering in both Parents Centre and Playcentre where empowerment underpinned the work; working in community education; facilitating women’s self awareness and personal growth and development; observing others compassion and strong sense of social justice.

So as I read my feelings swung from sad recognition, to feelings of affirmation and strength, to acknowledgement and wisdom, to bewilderment over how much work is still required to gain equity and to wonder over so many startling achievements by women despite the odds and the tug of biology.

And, of course, there were photos to soak up. Some were vivid and colourful, others darker featuring light in a different way. Some were active shots, others with a stillness. All reflecting, in some way, the woman portrayed.

Several struck me deeply: the powerfully warm, deep connection between a woman and her horse; the serene, confident stillness of a teenage mother who has blossomed in her academic studies; the soft beauty and colour of a nurse who had worked in war ravaged countries; the deeply powerful image of a woman who had escaped a violent relationship, but who had behind her all the women who had died in a domestic violence situation since she had escaped.

I could go on……The exhibition has been extended until 22nd July 2012 and it is free. If you read along in Wellington, make time to go.

If you live elsewhere the links to the Gallery and to Bev Short’s website will offer you more information and a glimpse of the richness.

And since viewing the exhibition I have thought a lot about judgement and how “the map is not the territory”……Alfred Korzybski

Treasures and mementos

One of my children, now grown up, was given this collection of shells and seeds by a friend’s family from Playcentre.

They had contact with various scientists and were happy to gift us this array of treasures. The land snail shells are so colourful and inside each of these three are tiny classification details. Once upon a time they were part of a research study into creatures of my country.

The bright red and black seeds are a mystery to me.

With small children it was a time, back then, to examine and wonder, to observe the diversity of size and shape, to explore with very gentle touch and respect and to learn more about life on earth.

This small collection of treasures is important to me and one day I hope to share my enjoyment of them with my grandchildren.

Do you have such treasures tucked away?