Saturday, February 2

Rarotonga's Creative Centre


The Creative Centre was founded in 2002 as a place where people with disabilities, over the age of sixteen, could get together and find a pathway to as much independence as possible.
The programme included activities, lessons about various crafts and visits to the outside community. In the past these have included street festivals, watching the annual float parade, exercise classes at a local gym and being part of an environment day presentation, depending on what is going on locally.

The Centre

The centre is open for 48 weeks of the year – it closes doors over the Christmas/New Year period.
The Creative Centre owns a couple of large people-mover vans and every weekday morning many members are collected and taken to the premises behind the Tupapa Public Health building although some members are able to make their own way, travelling by Cooks buses – all free of charge.


There are various activities during the day with those who are able making items for sale while others might colour in pictures or do puzzles.
In the past the members have had painting and pottery classes but that depends on having teachers available.
A favourite activity right now is pareu and t-shirt making, as you can see in the video.
These items are tagged with the maker's name and when sold a portion of the price goes to the one who wielded the roller.
The printing screens have all been provided by local artists.
Other crafts include making bead jewellery such as necklaces, earrings and bracelets. The beads come from donated items that must first be picked apart before being reassembled. It needs good eyesight and patience.
The craft is sold either at the centre or at the Creative Hut down at Punange Nui Market. That's open on Saturdays and another couple of days a week and is run by volunteers.
The staff try to see that everyone gets a small pay packet at the end of the week.

The garden

One of the members is a wizard with a weed-eater and keeps the area tidy. He sometimes works in the community – all part of becoming as independent as possible.
The garden beside the centre has herb and vegetable beds and a shade-house where seeds are raised in pots either for sale or to plant in the beds. At the moment there's a healthy crop of basil.
The produce is used in the centre's kitchen where lunch is cooked every day.
And some of the members help with the cooking.


There have been some changes over the years.
For example the centre now has more older members. This may be because strokes or heart disease lead to disabilities but also because of the early stages of dementia.
But regardless of age, the dedicated staff look after everyone. They are all caring and compassionate but also very practical.
The atmosphere at the centre is absolutely positive. It's a happy place.


None of this would be possible without the help of generous donors.
The Japanese government funding the respite area is an obvious major example, as is James Talbot, currently walking the length of New Zealand to raise money to run this area. There is more about the Creative Trail walk on the previous blog post.
But many local businesses and individuals give support like Cooks Buses mentioned above, retail stores with discounts and the women's housie groups that often donate up to $5000 a year.

Visitors welcome

People are welcome to visit the centre and in particular tourists can come along and make their own pareus or T-shirts.
They will always receive a hearty welcome.

Monday, January 28

Kiwi walker helps Rarotonga's Creative Centre

This story by Barbara Dreaver, TVNZ's Pacific Correspondent, is about James Talbot who is walking the length of New Zealand to raise money for the Creative Centre.
At the beginning of her media career Barbara worked for Cook Islands News. She still has a soft spot for the Cooks and is very popular here.
See this story about James Talbot on the Cook Islands News website.
Follow James Talbot's walk on Facebook.
Make a donation on the Creative Trail Givealittle page.

Saturday, February 24

Aitutaki Vet Trek is finally here!

19 sq mi of lagoon
6.97 sq mi land
pop about 2000
cat population: “unknown” large feral population plus owned cats
Beauty of Aitutaki: unparalleled. “the Most Beautiful Lagoon in the World” (Lonely Planet quote)

Cats, Paying it Forward, and the Kindness of Strangers

A year go my husband and I came to this beautiful paradise, and as most people do, we fell in love with the islands, the people and communities. During our visit, a chance meeting on Aitutaki with someone who shares a passion for animals led to an idea being born to help with animal welfare, especially the cats of Aitutaki.

Almost a year later a small team of us arrive here in the Cook Islands with such gratitude for the phenomenal support we’ve received on so many levels and from numerous people and organizations. Our hearts soar to experience such warmth and true compassion. For us this is “paying it forward” to be able to help the animals and thus the people of the Cook Islands. It all started with the kindness of strangers, and now we know and understand that that is the Cook Island way.

We’d like to recognize and thank Gwen Welland and the people of Te Are Manu Clinic for all of their support and help with the government approval process, customs, helping us getting the donations we brought in order, and getting local support for our endeavors. We had quite a few changes and alterations during the process of coming here, and Gwen was always available to help get things through in a pleasant and efficient manner. Meitaki ma’ata Gwen.

Air Rarotonga has also sponsored us in a big way and has donated all 5 of our round trip airfares to Aitutaki. Thank you Ewan Smith, for your continuing support of the animals of the Cook Islands.

Thanks to the businesses and community of Aitutaki for their generous donations of dinners, lodging, a vehicle (with fuel) to pick up and return the animals, and even a Vaka cruise! When we’re not working we will certainly enjoy being able to drive to the lagoon, snorkel and eat some great food! Yumm!

Thanks to the Islander Hotel for 2 day rooms to rest and make ourselves presentable before going over to Aitutaki. Much appreciated!

We’d also like to thank the veterinary clinics of Corvallis and Eugene, Oregon, USA for their very generous donations of supplies, medicines, more supplies, and heaps of supplies! When we asked for just a few clinics to clean out their closets, they surely did! So much generosity made it hard to bring everything, but we managed to stuff 5 huge suitcases full to the brim! We know that the supplies will be well used and especially for the outer islands. Thanks Oregon! Could not have done this without you!

Also want to thank all the individuals in the states, both friends and new friends, who donated to our cause with cash donations to purchase many of the supplies for surgery. Again could not have done this without raising the money for the medicine purchases.

I’d like to introduce our team:

Dr. Sharon Forster-Blouin, DVM of Corvallis Cat Clinic, Corvallis, Oregon
Dr. G. Rochelle Brinton, DVM of San Diego, CA & founder of the Feral Cat Coalition of San Diego.
Ms. Sheri Pandey, CVT veterinary nurse, Corvallis Cat Care, Corvallis, Oregon
Mr. John Adams; assistant, all around go-for
Ms. Tomie Timon; assistant, chief cat herder and organizer of the mission

So when it’s all said and done, it always comes back to helping the animals.
They have no second agenda, their lives are valuable as are all lives, and if we can pay it forward to help them live better lives, what can be better?

Meitaki ma’ata and Meitaki atupaka!

Mataora matou, i te aere mai, ki konei!