News | 1 June 2022
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Pūrerehua23: Tenants tackling food insecurity

An initiative started by a City Housing resident and his late partner is helping him navigate grief and connect community members through the redistribution of kai.

Man standing infront of a doorway.

Wesley Gyles-Bedford has called Newtown Park Apartments home since 2018 and despite being relatively new to the community, he's quickly become one of their most recognisable movers and shakers. 

He's been volunteering for some time at The Free Store next to St Peter’s Anglican Church – a welcoming space where Wellingtonians from all walks of life can connect over fresh, surplus kai. It was actually at The Free Store where he met his late girlfriend, Karena. She was a gentle, active resident of the Dixon Street Apartments. 

Before the last COVID-19 lockdown, the two were in Wesley's apartment at Newtown Park, when Karena looked out the window and saw a neighbour struggling with a shopping trolley of low-quality food. An idea was born to start a kai security initiative with and for fellow Wellington City Council housing tenants  particularly those with mobility limitations.

Getting the project up and running

The first stage was to bring excess bread from The Free Store to the Newtown Park community room, reducing the need for tenants to travel. Together, Wesley and Karena worked with Senior Tenancy Advisor Kerry McCracken to develop the concept and get the project approved. 

Sadly, last October, around the time of the project's launch, Karena passed away. But rather than pause things, Wesley decided to forge ahead. He named the initiative Pūrerehua23 in Karena's memory, after an image of her holding a butterfly (pūrerehua) and 23, the date of her birthday, as well as Wesley’s beloved aunt’s. 

Man holding a photoframe.
Wesley and his favourite photo of Karena.

Pūrerehua23 was quiet over the summer, but just as Wesley was gearing up to restart bread distribution, the stars aligned: after two years of trying to coordinate a weekly delivery of food from Kaibosh Food Rescue, Senior Advisor of Community Development, Jamie Shackleton got the call – they could begin at Newtown Park Apartments.

It was a tight turnaround, but in the space of just a few days, Jamie, Kerry, and Tenancy Advisor Emma Ericson found a group of talented tenant volunteers who were inducted to bring the initiative to life. Posters were whipped up and dispersed throughout the complex. The team was ready to go. 

Launching the initiative

Then came the launch day. Reverend Jean Malcom from St Peters performed a beautiful blessing, acknowledging Karena and her photo on the wall. Wesley said a few words. And rather than the expected 12 banana boxes of food, Kaibosh Operations Manager Martin Andrews and Food Rescue Driver Stephen Munro turned up with a whopping 36! Volunteers jumped straight in to organise the kai and facilitate its fair distribution. The Free Store bread went down a treat too.  

In the end, the Pūrerehua23 team had over 40 tenants and their families arrive from both Newtown Park and nearby Te Ara Hou Apartments. There was music playing, laughter, and good conversation between neighbours who likely wouldn’t otherwise connect. All but one box of the rescued kai was distributed – that excess went to Te Ara Hou and Hanson Court City Housing complexes. It was a resounding success. 

A man standing behind a table with fresh produce on top.

Now in their second month since the 2022 restart, Wesley's overwhelmed and excited about how quickly Pūrerehua23 and the team have grown – Ekta NZ, a not-for-profit, has come onboard to support with Kaibosh food delivery. He’s proud of what he’s been able to accomplish as a partially sighted person and as someone moving through grief. Helping his neighbours is helping him to process his own pain. It's also supporting Wellington’s amazing community organisations to work together more against urban food insecurity, made worse by COVID-19. 

“Part of the reason why [Pūrerehua23] is needed is because it connects neighbours with each other, which is very important during these pandemic times, with all of this isolation. We have to make sure we're looking out for each other," says Wesley. 

“And the food distribution is just the start! This is not a small project – it's a long-term one which will deal with hardship and bring communities together in a range of ways."

Wesley's looking forward to getting seasonal gardening and budgeting literacy activities added to the Pūerehua23 roster later down the track.  

"Pūrerehua23 is about team effort. Without The Free Store, St Peter's Anglican Church, Kaibosh, Ekta NZ, City Housing staff, Billy and Elizabeth – our regular tenant volunteers – and of course Karena, this initiative couldn't have happened."

If you would like to get involved in supporting Pūrerehua23, you can get in touch with