John Taylor – Executive Director
John has been involved in the disability sector in New Zealand for over 28 years. He has worked in a variety of roles including direct service, operational management, policy formation, political lobbying, governance, advocacy, organisational development, training, and consultancy. He believes people should be able to live their life their way. John has a MPhil in Social Policy, Post Grad Dip Arts in Social Work, BSc in Science and Ethics and a Licentiate in Theology.
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Maureen Laphen – Service Manager Hutt Valley and Taranaki
Maureen has worked in the mental health and the disability sector for 15 years. Maureen’s role as Service Manager is to support the Hutt Coordinators to always deliver great support. Maureen has worked with the Wellington Needs Assessment and Service Coordination Agency (NASC) and was an Intensive Service Coordinator for RIDCA before joining Community Connections.
Karen Cave - Service Coordinator Taranaki Region
I come from a teaching background, working in a variety of roles from teacher, parent educator (PAFT), to working with foster children and their families.
Prior to working here at Community Connections I worked in Hamilton managing two residential centres, one for mothers and infants, and one for women who had recently exited prison and who needed support to re-integrate into their communities after sometimes long absences.
I am very much looking forward to the new adventures and challenges here at Community Connections and to establishing the service here in the Taranaki Region.
Oliver Halford - Service Manager - Greater Wellington
Oliver has worked in the support sector since 2006. He started work as a Support Worker in Dunedin, where he developed a passion for supporting people with disabilities to achieve their goals. Oliver has also worked for ACC within the Serious Injury Service, focused on funding a broad range of supports for people who had acquired disabilities after a life changing event. Oliver has also worked as a funder of disability support services focused on funding a broad range of supports and services.
Josh Leith - Service Coordinator Kapiti
Josh has worked in the disability sector since 2005 with varying roles within residential services prior to joining the Community Connections team in March 2011. Prior to this Josh had a lot of interaction with staff who worked for Community Connections and felt that the values and model of support we offer was definitely something he wanted to be a part of. Late 2015 Josh took on what he saw as an exciting opportunity to become the Kapiti Coordinator and has never looked back.
Amy Cole - Service Coordinator Hutt Valley
Amy has worked in the health and disability sector since 2009. Previously working in Hutt Valley as a Support Worker and then Service Coordinator; Amy left for 2 years and was welcomed back in 2016 as Service Coordinator in the Wellington South team. In 2018 Amy took over as Service Coordinator for the Upper Hutt team. Amy's passion lies in helping people to live the live that they choose.
Cliff Cook - Service Coordinator Wider Wellington Residential
Cliff started with Community Connections in March 2015 in the Wellington office, rejoining the Care Sector after an absence of some 12 years, due to living in France. Prior to living in France Cliff had been a Social Worker predominantly in Child Youth & Families starting in a residential unit for people experiencing disability. Arriving in New Zealand in November 2014, Cliff researched Community Connections and felt that it would be an organisation that he'd relish the opportunity to work for.
Mele So'onata'a - Service Coordinator Porirua/Tawa
Mele started with Community Connections in June 2016 as a support worker before taking on the coordinator role at the start of 2017. Prior to this, Mele worked for Quitline for 11 years in different roles and as a budget advisor for 4 years in the Porirua region.
Mele enjoys working for Community Connections because of the values it holds, and becuase of the way that we work to empower of the people we support to achieve their own goals, and quality of life. As the coordinator for the Tawa region her aim is to ensure the service runs effectively for all the people we support.
Richard Bennetts - Service Manager Hawke's Bay, Bay of Plenty, and Manawatu
Rich joined the Community Connections team in May 2016 as the Palmerston North Service Coordinator. Rich is now our Hawkes Bay Service Manager. A qualified butcher by trade, Rich has over a decade’s management experience in the retail sector and has completed a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Psychology. Rich is passionate about empowering the people we support to live the lives they choose. In his free time, Rich is studying towards his Masters of Science majoring in Psychology and enjoys spending time with his rambunctious German Shepherd, Gryff.
Christine Spooner - Service Coordinator Hawke's Bay
Prior to working for Community Connections, Christine had worked for DEALS as a Community Support Worker since 2001. Christine spent 16 years working for IHC as a level four Community Support worker, running two residential homes. Christine has a Diploma in Teaching People with Disabilities. Christine enjoys being part of the journey that people take working towards their “Good Life.”
Brenda Ericson - Service Coordinator Hawke's Bay
Before joining Community Connections Brenda worked for a residential service in Nelson. The main reason Brenda sought a job with Community Connections was due to our approach providing choices and Independence, assisting people to live the life that they choose. Brenda is very enthusiastic about Community Connection's philosophy, describing it as being in-tune with her thinking about Support for people, eliminating barriers and empowering people within their community.
Dianne Worrall - Service Coordinator Palmerston North
Dianne has been working within the disability industry since 2008. She has a real passion for working alongside people to achieve their goals and dreams and live the life they choose. She has worked in different support roles with people, in a variety of roles, including teacher aid, support worker with Conductive Education, Community Coordinator doing transition, supported employment and community participation and also some time working within the aged care sector.
Shmuel Bar-Even - Service Coordinator Bay of Plenty
Hi. I’m Shmuel (pronounced Shmoo-el!) Bar-Even, and I’m working for Community Connections as a Service Coordinator in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, based out of Whakatane.
I’ve been involved in the world of disability support services for a long time, usually in areas for development and change. I’ve worked throughout New Zealand, but call myself a Nelsonian, although my wife and I have most recently been living in Auckland, where I did project work with an individualised funding service (which I left early in 2017 to become a grandfather In Seoul.) I’m really pleased to have returned now to the world of Supported Living, with which I’ve has a strong involvement from way back.
I’ve been a New Zealander for many years, but was born and educated in the UK. I spent part of my early adulthood in Israel, but have also lived and worked in Holland, Germany, Australia, Samoa and China. Because my wife and my two adult stepchildren (and now two grandchildren!) are Korean, we travel to Seoul quite often. Of my two birth children, one lives in Wellington with her family and the other in Paekakariki with his family. They enjoy being what they and doing what they do, as do their adult and pretty-much adult children. The (Kapiti Coast and Wellington are among my favourite places in NZ- and not only because Wellington has great coffee!)
Work is keeping me busy in the Eastern Bay, but I get to swim daily at Ohope Beach ( ..It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it…) I’m a mediocre fisherman, but I’ve already had offers of help. I’m also a mediocre speaker of Te Reo Maori, but plan to change this rapidly given the amount of Te Reo spoken here! I like to read (fiction in English and poetry in some other languages), and I have an increasing interest in translation. Inevitably, I’m absorbed (both through my chosen work and also through family) with the issue of how best to support people who carry the disability label to live full lives.
Matt Sang - Community Networks & Safe Practice Manager
Matt Sang has worked at Community Connections since 2011. Prior to this Matt lived overseas for 20 years working in the hospitality sector; and also as a natural health practitioner and a teacher. Matt’s current role helps to develop a new model of support called Community Networks- Te Hapori Herenga Tangata. He is also involved in promoting the organisations values and culture internally though professional development; and health and wellbeing practices. One of Matt’s highlights so far has been supporting a group of people to set up a “Singles and Mingles” group. He is also a member of the Community Connections Kapa Haka group- nga poutoko manawa nunui o nga awhina tangata e