Daughter inspires family's vision

PASTORAL CARE: Taranaki Cathedral Dean Jamie Allen at the site of the planned Taranaki retreat for those in need. 
PASTORAL CARE: Taranaki Cathedral Dean Jamie Allen at the site of the planned Taranaki retreat for those in need. 

Jamie Allen's family are selling their New Plymouth home to fund and run a retreat for Taranaki people in crisis.

The family was moved to make the lifestyle change after the death of Allen's daughter, Carrie, from cancer in 2012, the dean of Taranaki Cathedral said.

"Our loss of Carrie has been fundamental to coming to this point and making the decision to set this up.

"We feel Carrie's presence in this vision.

"Her journey has definitely been instrumental in this. In losing her we realised how much you critically need support and care around you."

Five hundred people gathered at the cathedral in September 2012 to bid her farewell after a 3 year struggle with cancer. She is buried in the cathedral grounds.

Allen said his family had received extensive support during that time, and had became acutely aware that others sometimes did not have such help during their hard times.

"We were really, really blessed with the various communities that we are part of and we were well cared for. But in the work we do I often encounter people in a similar situation when there isn't that surrounding love of family support and care.

"That can be dreadful and very lonely."

Planning for the retreat is well under way at their chosen site on Hurford Rd.

The family will live on site in a house relocated from Hawera, with a communal area set up for meals together. There will be a new accommodation block and a third separate building which will be a chapel or gathering place.

The dean, who retains his position at the cathedral, will care for those in need with his family's help and volunteer support.

His wife Suzy and their daughters Dani, 7, Katy, 12, and Roxy, 17, are fully committed to the project.

He was seeing the need for such a retreat first hand in his job of pastoral care, he said.

"If there isn't any family or community of support, you can end up quite isolated. I'm often involved in situations where the most critical thing people need is a little time out with no financial strings attached.

"People come to us for help but it is tricky to find them the right place."

Access to time out needed to be quick and easy, he said.

Their home on Tukapa St was "awesome", but it was not suitable for a retreat and would be sold to fund the enterprise.

The family had already set up a charitable trust, called the Taranaki Retreat Trust. Its vision was simply to care for Taranaki people, he said.

It would be sustainable and self-funding.

The trust was also keen to work with organisations like Tui Ora which had a similar focus on holistic care, including body, mind and spirit.

"It's time to stop talking and do something about it."

The New Plymouth District Council community development had been fully supportive in helping with the complex consent and planning processes.

"I've been utterly impressed," he said.

"We are very keen to talk to anyone interested in sharing this vision, who might be prepared to get stuck in with some building or site work."

The Allens have set up a blog where people can watch progress and register to help: taranakiretreat.org.nz

Taranaki Daily News