David Dingwall – How can one person make a difference? by Kathleen Rowe

David Dingwall – How can one person make a difference? by Kathleen Rowe

Sun 05 Jun

David McNair Dingwall was a man who worshipped God and followed Jesus. He was a member of St Andrews then a foundation member here at St Lukes from 1875. He walked to church from his home which was opposite the Remuera library. He was a faithful member and served as an elder, a Session clerk for many years, a loyal member of the choir and a teacher in Sunday school something he did for 50 years. It is said that on one most unusual occasion, probably the only Sunday in 50 years when he was absent, there was deep concern among the congregation as to what had happened to him. To everyone’s amusement the visiting preacher took as his text, in all innocence, from Samuel 20:25…. ‘And David’s place was empty.”.

The story goes that David called a friend whose wife had died, leaving him with young children to care for. The friend had to leave to go back to his job at sea. ‘What can I do David?’. I have to work to support them. How can I care for them? What will happen to my children? There was no DPB in those days.

David saw the need.

His long term response of compassion which was practical and loving, was determining how to care for needy children. When he died in 1927 his will said that money and property he had built up over the years was to be used, after he had cared for his sister’s needs, for the formation of an ‘Institution to be located within 50 miles of the Auckland General Post Office, to be called the Dingwall Presbyterian Orphanage and the trustees were to be the current ministers and a lay person from the four city Presbyterian churches, St Andrews, St James, St Lukes and St Davids plus three executors from Jackson, Ryburn and Buttle.

The focus was to be on the needs of children, for the maintenance, upbringing and education for children born or domiciled in New Zealand, of any race or creed, who should be orphans or destitute, or whose parent should be in strained circumstances.

It is 89 years since the death of David Dingwall and the work of the Dingwall Trust as it is now known, is endeavouring to make a difference to the children that call it home  for a period.

Figures for children who have been in care make horrific reading

Anne Tolley, the Social Development Minister released information from a study recently.

The study found that by the age of 21, for children with a care placement who were born in the 12 months to 1991:

  •   Almost 90 per cent are on the benefit
  •   Around 25 per cent are on the benefit with a child
  •   Almost 80 per cent do not have NCEA Level 2
  •   More than 30 per cent have a Youth Justice referral by age 18
  •   Almost 20 per cent have had a custodial sentence
  •   Almost 40 per cent have had a community sentence.

At Dingwall we aim to do all we can to see that the children in our care receive all the assistance available to ensure they have a better chance of a productive life.

Dingwall in Papatoetoe is a temporary home not to orphans but to vulnerable children who have been removed from their homes by CYFS. There are many reasons for the removal but alcohol, drugs, sexual and physical violence in the home are a recurring theme. Many of the children have had numerous placements before coming to Dingwall so they need special care.The average age of children in our care is just over 8 years and the average time at Dingwall a little over 2 years. The ethnicity of the children in our care has changed over the years. We now have on average over 60% from Maori or Pacific Island families. We are seeing a shift towards caring for younger children. Dingwall is home to many sibling groups. Because we have eight cottages even if the children are in different cottages they can see each other regularly and certainly get together for birthday celebrations. In some cases it works out better to have some siblings separated.

The young ones attend the local preschool and the older children the local primary and secondary schools. Holiday programmes are arranged to give the children a different experience. We have a property at Kaiaua where the children have gone in the past for breaks. At the end of last year the somewhat delabitated buildings were pulled down and shortly building will start on two custom made dwellings to house up to 10 children and their caregivers. J G Gardener have come up with an excellent plan and the caregivers will enjoy taking turns at using the facilities for a weekend or over the holidays. While Kaiaua has been out of action caregivers have been encouraged to give to their children new experiences so trips to Wellington and other places have been made.

We see education as very important. Last year we renamed our boarding school scholarship programme and it is now known as the Education Enhancement Programme. This is to better reflect what we are on about. Our first priority is for children in care. $250,000 is set aside each year for this programme. Our aim is to provide the education that best meets the needs of the children in our care. This can be the local school, another school in Auckland, boarding school (maybe to allow a pupil to have more contact with family) and in some cases independent and private schools when extra funding is available. Education can make a difference and we are keen to support this initiative. Pupils from St Kentigens come each week to Dingwall to assist the older children with their homework or spend time listening to younger ones read.

When not at school the children enjoy the parklike grounds of Dingwall. The heated swimming pool is very popular as is the Tennis/Netball court and the various climbing frames.

At Dingwall each child is encouraged to belong to at least two extra curriculum activities as well as having some community involvement. The ‘Garden to Table’ programme was started last year and the children enthusiastically assist in helping to plant, pick and help cook some of the vegetables that are grown. A Nutritionalist assists the caregivers in supplying guidance with the preparing of nutritious meals.

One of the good things to come out of the recent budget is the raising of the leaving age for children in care from 17 to 18. Most young people are still living at home with their parents and attending school at this age but young people in care have their funding support stopped at age 17. A few years ago Dingwall obtained some funding to start our Launch programme which provides personal advisors to assist up to 60 young people in the Auckland area.The aim is to help them develop confidence and competence in living skills and encourage them in continuing with their education. As you can imagine finding suitable accomodation and job opportunities for these young people is a challenge.

We are proud of some of the achievements of our young people and willingly find the money to support them. One young woman travelled to Melbourne last year for Softball.

Comments from a 9 year old girl who has been at Dingwall for 2 years:

I dislike… the dark,  …. hitting me, Calculus and scary movies.

I am good at….. gymnastics, being a sister, being a role-model at school, Netball, being a leader.

I want…. to make friendships at Dingwall that last forever, to stay at Dingwall forever, talk to my Mum more on the phone, get involved in a sport, the twins to like me, I want a relationship with a man from my whanau.

I like…. my friends at Dingwall, butter chicken and spaghetti Bolognese, my teacher, algebra, reading, learning, being at Dingwall, phone contact with my Mum, Kaiaua and the holiday programme, talking to adults about how I feel.

I need to work on…. my calculus, my fear of the dark, my relationships with my sister, brushing my teeth.

Sometimes I feel….. happy, scared of the dark, scared of …. annoyed at my sister ……, nervous that I don’t know how long I will be here.

Thank you David Dingwall for giving hope to the lives of young people down through the years.