A concept is born

The original ‘Life A Plenty’ concept arose out of a strong desire and commitment to offer a range of psycho-therapeutic programmes within the local community. During this formative stage of development, the concept of Women’s Retreats was being explored. These retreats would offer women who were feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed, the opportunity to take a break from their stressful lives in order to replenish their mind, body and spirit, and receive support to make positive change in their lives. It was envisaged the retreats would be free, and offer a safe and secure environment for the women to experience complete rest in a quiet, reflective atmosphere.

Bryant Retreat for Women in Raglan, a dedicated service operating for over sixty years offering rest and time out to women in the Waikato region, was seeking interest from agencies within the BOP to offer a similar service. The geographical catchment area for the Bryant Retreat for Women’s service initially included the Waikato and Tauranga regions however, due to increased demand, a decision was made to reduce that catchment area to the Waikato region.

Retreat picture

In September 2014, Life A Plenty visited Bryant House Retreat in Raglan to discuss service provision, participants, retreat timeframes, referral processes, staffing, geographical catchment/location, and funding provision etc. After substantial discussion, it was agreed Life A Plenty would accept the offer to facilitate service provision for Women’s Retreats within the wider BOP.

A small promotional presentation to select organisations in Tauranga was organised with the Bryant Trust CEO (at the time) Lyndsay Cumberpatch, who attended the promotion in order to support this vision and to endorse the proposed service provision for a Women’s Retreat service within the wider BOP.

The Acorn Foundation who was also present, offered to provide some foundational funding to support the establishment and development of a ‘small pilot’ of two Women’s Retreats in the Cluny Retreat Centre in Tauranga, and Tyburn Retreat Centre in rural Rotorua. These Retreat Centres were quite different in their offerings i.e. Cluny Retreat Centre offered shared bathroom facilities, with meal provision being the responsibility of the Trust. Tyburn Retreat Centre offered cooked meals, and participants and staff each had separate ensuites within their rooms. After examining feedback from both pilot experiences, it was decided that the Women’s Retreats would be held in the Tyburn Retreat Centre.

It was unanimously agreed the next important step for Life A Plenty was to establish a Charitable Trust. Following discussions, a very generous gift of an inactive trust named ‘Ora Charitable Trust’ was offered to Life A Plenty in 2015. Significant amendments were made to the trust to reflect a vision for offering free therapeutic retreats for women within the wider BOP region. After re-registering Ora Charitable Trust, further development and consolidation took place generating a successful and comprehensive service offering free Women’s Retreats within the wider BOP. Life A Plenty was contracted by Ora Charitable Trust to facilitate service provision for the Women’s Retreats. Life A Plenty continued to offer professional development and psycho-educational workshops and seminars for health professionals.

Following substantial discussion regarding the possible confusion of offering two streams of service provision (ie ‘Life A Plenty’ and ‘Ora Charitable Trust’), the Trust agreed to formally integrate Life A Plenty and Ora Charitable Trust in 2019 to become ‘Life A Plenty Charitable Trust’ (LAPCT).

Founding Members

Historically, the initial Life A Plenty steering group comprised Dr James Arkwright, Peter De Veth, Shiree De Veth, Anne Martin, Linda Parnell, Les Simmonds, and Cushla Summers. After formative development of Life A Plenty, the website, branding, service development etc, further changes occurred within the steering group and the consolidation of a charitable trust lead to the following four members becoming the founding Ora Charitable Trust trustees: Les Simmonds (Chairperson), Dr James Arkwright, Anne Martin and Cushla Summers.

It was with great sadness that Les Simmonds, was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and passed away in 2018. Les was a highly valued and respected Family Therapist within the therapeutic community, and also held a role as a National Family Therapy Advisor for ‘Stand Tū Māia’, whilst running a private practice as a Family Therapist, at the time of his passing.

Dr James Arkwright is a professional counsellor and senior lecturer within social practice degree programmes, and is the Kaiarorangi Principal of Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. Anne Martin is a senior Family Therapist and Facilitator at ‘Stand Tū Māia’, and is passionate about supporting women within the community to reach their potential. Anne previously worked at Relationship Services/Relationship Aotearoa where she worked with couples, individuals and families. Anne is a Women’s Retreat Facilitator with LAPCT, and also worked as a Treasurer within her trustee role. Cushla Summers holds significant experience within the tertiary education and social service sectors researching, developing and facilitating tertiary and adult psycho-educational programmes, including educational project management within the education, NGO, community and commercial sectors.

From pilot to six retreats a year

From its inception, LAPCT trustee numbers have continued to expand, with a current board of eight Trustees (including a Chairperson), and a remunerated LAPCT Co-ordinator. The Trust profile and credibility has grown significantly within the wider BOP communities. From 2017 to 2023, the Trust has supported 174 wāhine to participate in free therapeutic retreats. It currently offers six Retreats per year (with constant demand and a waiting list as illustrated by the graph below), which are generously funded and continually endorsed by a wide range of local community agencies.

Retreat demand

Life A Plenty Charitable Trust continues to offer many women in need within the wider BOP a safe and nurturing environment to take vital and essential time to rest, reflect and have time out in order to experience the benefits of replenishment and recuperation. Two professional facilitators offer invaluable therapeutic expertise and support during the retreats in order to create a life-changing experience for the women, their tamariki, whānau and the wider community.

Find out more about our retreats here.