Family leaves Gloriavale for new life in Timaru

CHANGES: The family checks out their new home.
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CHANGES: The family checks out their new home.

A family of 14 has left the West Coast's Gloriavale Christian commune to make a new home in Timaru.

On Monday, a Facebook post circulated with details of the family's plight, asking people for donations of housing, food, money, clothes, household items and a vehicle.

"This family came to believe that they were in a false system and have left 500 of their family and friends (the only ones they've ever known). Hugely courageous. . . they are very excited about starting life out here. They are feeling blessed – but are aware of the road ahead of them," Timaru woman Liz Gregory wrote online.

The family of two adults and 12 children, known on Facebook as the Ben Canaan family, are staying with Gregory and her husband Graham. They left Gloriavale at the weekend.

Gregory has also asked for work for the father James, who has 20 years of experience in managing a "Gloriavale dairy farm".

She said there was a "team" of people helping the family, who have been "blown away" by the generosity of the Timaru community.

"They want to say thank you to everyone who has offered clothing and food and furniture and money. It's been amazing watching the community rally."  

Gregory said it was possible more people from Gloriavale will be coming out "so if there is any excess we will store it for them."  

The Gloriavale organisation has attracted controversy through the notoriety of its leader, Neville Cooper (known as Hopeful Christian), who was convicted of sexual assault in 1994.

Cooper was jailed for almost a year, and convicted on the testimony of his son and some young women who had fled the compound.

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Located 3km south of Lake Haupiri on the West Coast, Gloriavale was set up in 1990 when its members relocated from Springbank Christian Community in North Canterbury.

The community of around 500 members operate a number of businesses on their large land holding surrounding their base.

"It's a huge deal for them to stop wearing their community clothes and so they are going to transition slowly," Gregory said of the family leaving.

Gregory said the family's supporters will be starting a Give A Little page "in the next day or so to help establish them and any others may leave".

'The family are in great spirits, which is incredible, because what they have done is massive.

"There have been a couple of other small families leave in the past year, and it's a tough road ahead, but this is a great community." 

The family would not speak to media on Tuesday.

"They are trying to take everything in, it's been so overwhelming for them," Gregory said.   

"They may want to share their story when things settle down." 

 - The Timaru Herald

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