The youth of Shannon have been missing out. Opportunities available to most young people in the Wellington Diocese — like retreats and Easter Camps — have not been an option for Shannon’s youth. Shannon parents see the value in these events, but they simply cannot afford the cost of petrol to get their young people to them.
Unlike New Zealand’s urban centres and wealthier towns, Shannon faces “transport poverty” — a challenge unique to isolated, low-income communities. This significant issue was officially recognised by the NZ Department of Health in a 2010 report. Transport poverty occurs when a family cannot afford basic vehicle expenses. Also, the lack of local public transport in Shannon compounds the problem.
Sharon Williams, the Shannon youth group and kids’ club coordinator, is working alongside others in the Parish of Shannon-Foxton to remove financial barriers to youth events. Sharon’s first success came earlier this month when she hit upon funding for six youth and one young adult leader to attend Easter Camp in Feilding. The Wallis Trust granted money to cover Easter Camp fees, but Sharon knew that transport poverty was still an obstacle.
And so, the Fuel-a-Friend campaign began. Sharon collected money from people around the Diocese, especially at the Diocesan Hui, and put it towards fuel vouchers. Those vouchers allowed three parents to transport their youth to Easter Camp.
The results? An incredible experience for six Shannon young people at Easter Camp! Afterwards, they recounted fun times, new friendships, God encounters, and eye-opening learning. One parent texted Sharon, “He’s home. He had the best time ever.”
Now Sharon has her eye set on other youth events, including “The Gig” weekend in May — also in Feilding.
Want to contribute to Fuel-a-Friend or hear more about this inspiring work with Shannon’s youth? Email Sharon Humphrey-Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.