A makeover when it's needed most

17:00, Aug 18 2014
Helping hand: New Beginnings board chairwoman Laura Willan with preschoolers Laelah and Lily.
HELPING HAND: New Beginnings board chairwoman Laura Willan with preschoolers Laelah and Lily.

Extreme Makeover: preschool edition is about to resume for a decile two kindergarten in Philipstown.

The aptly-named New Beginnings preschool underwent the first phase of its transformation at Christmas last year, when a group from Majestic Church decided to spread some holiday cheer.

Phase two of the makeover is imminent.

Next Saturday, the same volunteers will descend on the preschool to finish painting the interior, do further landscaping and put down outdoor flooring. They will also build a new fence and a fort.

The not-for-profit school had been left dispirited in the wake of the earthquakes.

A temporary closure, decreased roll, and financial strain on families had left the school about $200,000 short, New Beginnings board chairwoman Laura Willan said.


To save the preschool from closure, its nine teachers worked through the Christmas holidays.

Willan, who is mother to two New Beginnings preschoolers and a part-time Majestic staff member, led the rejuvenation effort.

"It felt tired", she said. "I don't know if I'd say ‘run down', but it hadn't had any money spent on it for years and years."

Willan and 11 volunteers - including builders, plumbers, painters and project managers - spent that December Saturday beautifying the school. Walls, lockers and shelves were painted, spouting and drains were cleaned, curtains and bedding were replaced, and the outdoor play area was landscaped.

Church members donated three vanloads of toys, books, puzzles and other resources, which took staff a full day to sort.

"They hadn't had new resources for about seven years", Willan said. "It really lifted morale and made teachers feel like they were valued, and that people cared."

Wendy Howard-Williams, 68, has worked at the preschool for six years.

She confessed to shedding a tear or two when she walked in on the Monday morning.

"It was quite emotional, I couldn't help it", she said.

"We're still appreciating it. It's a good place to go and work anyway, but it does lift your spirits."

The Press