News | 16 June 2023
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Get to know Vondy Thornton, Empowering Communities Manager

From setting up a Council Rainbow Advisory Group to championing a pool event for transgender and non-binary folks to safely swim – community work has always been Vondy Thornton’s bread and butter.

Person wearing a mustard yellow jacket with a scarf.

Now after almost three years at Council, they have been appointed to the newly established role of Empowering Communities Manager in the Connected Communities team – stating that they’re thrilled to take on the role and ready to bring in freshly baked olive focaccia to barter with other managers.

Looking back on Vondy’s working career, they have dabbled in different communities across the world, from working with the elderly population in Bristol to running a queer youth charity.  

The connections they fostered throughout that time helped them make the move to Wellington City Council, where they took on the role of Resilience Advisor in what is now the Connected Communities team, Vondy says.

“I wanted to step up and focus on broader community work, which my role was developed for. I knew the youth, rainbow, and elderly populations well, and wanted to dive deeper into what we could do for them here in Pōneke.”

Within their first six months at Council, they were an advocate for the ‘Out in the pool party’ event, which is now a regular activity at the community pools. 

“I’m extremely proud of Out in the Pool party. It was a tangible thing that we could see how much of a difference it made. We had people come up to us to say that it was the first time they had swum in years. Shout out to the Manager of Community Pools Amy Carter for helping it happen!”

Group of people sitting in a semi-circle having a conversation.
Vondy working with the team at Age Concern.

During that time, they were also elected to the board of the Wellington Pride Festival, which had its biggest year of attendance since the festival started in 2017.

When they think back to their favourite day on the job, Vondy says the biggest highlight was running multiple events with Age Concern across different community gardens in the city.

“That was the nicest day ever. One woman told me that she hadn't left the house in three weeks because she recently had an aneurysm and was in a wheelchair. And she just came up to me and said it made her so happy to get out again and feel connected to others. 

“The sun was shining and I was able to hop around the community gardens helping all the different events. It was so special.” 

Two women enjoy tea and scones at Seniors' Week event at Innermost Gardens
Seniors Week event at the Innermost Gardens.

Looking forward into their future at Council, their new role as Empowering Communities Manager focuses on overseeing the Community and Harm Prevention teams, says Vondy. 

“Day to day, I’m working with our talented and inspiring staff to make sure our network of community centres and drop-in centres is running smoothly, that our community partnerships are strong, and that Council is responding well to the needs and aspirations of the community, including people experiencing homelessness.”

At the end of the day, Vondy aspires to do what’s best for the community, and for the people at the core of them. 

“I’ve met so many inspiring people every day who are doing what they can for others. My job is special because I feel as though I’m making a difference. Even day-to-day, you don't see many transgender and non-binary managers at Council, so I’m proud to be showing that it’s a possibility.

“It’s refreshing to approach my mahi with a new lens. I feel excited to steer the Empowering Communities waka – and grateful for the chance to work/collaborate with such a great team.”