On Thursday the 17th of October 120 members of the business, education, philanthropic and NGO sectors of Christchurch gathered for a special lunch hosted and organised by YMCA Christchurch.
The purpose of The Long Lunch was to engage a core group of key leaders and influencers across a diverse range of sectors to talk about what it means to support the social services sectors, and in particular the importance of creating space for young people to thrive in what is a regenerating city.
CEO Josie Ogden Schroeder presented to the audience about the YMCAs bold and ambitious plans to be part of the regeneration legacy by using their prime location within the four avenues to create a dynamic and youth-friendly development which will include theatre and performance spaces, wellbeing and fitness facilities, youth development and educational spaces, a central hub of youth focused NGOs and shared work spaces, a technology hub, a licensed early childhood centre and a range of other supporting spaces including hospitality, medical and physiotherapy. In amongst all of this was a compelling vision of how the YMCA can be a part of the aspirations of education, business and local government in terms of how Christchurch wants to evolve over the next few years – and more importantly, how the business community in particular could and should champion and support their plans. The development will cost $30,000,000 and is set to begin next year.
Sir Graham Lowe, recently knighted for his services to young people for his work with young men in prisons in Northland, attended as guest speaker. He regaled the audience with stories of his life as a rugby league coach – and his lesser known background as a young person who ‘didn’t fit into mainstream school.’ Sir Graham trained as an electrician, and has a strong sense that after his successful career he realises that the key to many of his fortunes was simply being given a chance to do what he was naturally good at. In his case it was coaching.
He likened the YMCA to a personal story of one of his first coaching gigs, where some young boys were disengaged, sitting in their car, not participating in the game. He tapped on the car window. “Three of those boys in that car went on to become some of the best rugby league players in the world. All they needed was for someone to tap on the window. That’s what the YMCA does, just tapping on the window, giving people an opportunity.”
Sir Graham Lowe has suffered a number of cardiac events and strokes in recent years and he talked compellingly about the ‘hype’ of sport. “Here I am, giving out autographs, when the real hero was the guy who had just operated on my heart and saved my life. He should be the one giving out autographs.”
The Long Lunch was the start of a campaign to build energy and momentum in the city around the YMCA’s development project, as well as to raise the consciousness of the corporate sector of the many ways they can contribute to the NGO/Charitable sector – not just through financial support but also by championing the programmes and services that they offer.
80% of those present pledged practical ways they will support the YMCA moving forward.