Time-banking makes good cents

A Porirua community time-bank is unable to find funding, despite the Ministry of Social Development using its ideas to build its own initiative.

Good Cents has been running for 13 years, significantly pre-dating the department’s “The Generator” initiative. Both programmes aim to build financial capability among vulnerable communities.

Good Cents co-ordinator and Wesley Community Action social worker Makerita Makapelu said while the government’s initiative was positive, it lacked the community heart Good Cents had fostered.

Over a decade ago, Makapelu and her team realised many of their social work clients had debt stresses they were not discussing. Ther group decided to bring these people together to see what could be done.

“As they talked they told us what was going on and we realised there were things they didn’t quite grasp about money,” Makapelu said.

She said the “cycle of debt” people found themselves in was born out of a culture of “burying your head in the sand.” This isolation allowed debt levels to snowball.

It was group’s close engagement with the Porirua community that gained it the trust to start a conversation and begin problem solving.

Trust and community involvement is something Makapelu worries the department’s initiative lacks.

Good Cents, or time-banking, was the solution participants co-developed. Many were in debt but had much to offer in terms of skills and experience.

The programme they created meant people could use their skills in exchange for someone else’s. It was a way of getting the things you needed without the usual necessity of money.

Skills on offer ranged from child-care and gardening to legal advice and cooking.

Even if you were to end up with negative hours owing, there was no penalty – only an expectation it would be returned when the opportunity arose.

Other time-bankers could even donate excess hours if they wanted to help out.

“[Participants successes] consolidated our belief that we have to work with the community if we want to make sustainable change,” Makapelu said.

But hard work only goes so far. Funding would have helped extend the community-based programme.

Makapelu worried the department’s approach was too “top down.” “No one likes being told what to do, we’re more successful if we can learn for ourselves.”

The results of the Good Cents initiative were evident, with participant Nicky saying she is now managing her money instead of her money managing her. “That’s changed me completely.”

Darna, another participant, believed Good Cents helped her mend relationships and get back on track. “When you don’t have money it affects not only relationships, it affects everything.”

Makapelu attributes Good Cents’ success solely to the peer support that built the programme, and hopes it can be extended to help even more people in the future.

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Article by roddengordana@gmail.com

About Author Student journalist at Massey, interested in the environment, politics and human rights.

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Article by roddengordana@gmail.com

About Author Student journalist at Massey, interested in the environment, politics and human rights.

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