Bernie Lepper, a longtime resident of Alexandra, has been honored with the Queen’s Service Medal for her tireless efforts in education and community service. Bernie has been integral to the Alexandra community, notably helping establish the Alexandra Community House in 2007, a venue she has helped develop into a central hub that now hosts 16 social services agencies, local artisans, and is utilized by 150 community groups.
Since 1998, Bernie has served as the manager of the Central Otago Rural Education Activities Programme (REAP), spearheading various social and educational initiatives that aid the vulnerable. She successfully led REAP’s facilitation of Strengthening Families, a project by Oranga Tamariki aimed at supporting at-risk families and whānau.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Bernie’s leadership was instrumental in the creation of the Ministry of Social Development Community Connector Role, which supported community cohesion and wellbeing, while partnering with Otago Polytechnic and Community House to offer a Learning Hub and digital courses for those lacking internet access.
Additionally, she has contributed six years of service to REAP Aotearoa, aiding its growth and mentoring education leaders across New Zealand. Between 2010 to 2019, she held the role of trustee for Central Lake Trust.
Bernie credits her success and recognition to the support of those she has worked with, expressing her eagerness to celebrate this achievement with them.
She says that her enduring passion for education, and belief in its transformative power, has been the driving force behind her contributions. Currently she is exploring South Korea on a cycling trip with her husband.
REAPs are collectively semi-finalists for the 2023 Community of the Year!
The Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year is given to the Communities that have shown the best of community spirit and who together have made an outstanding impact on the communities they serve. Their achievements enhance the social, economic, cultural or environmental prosperity of New Zealanders.
REAP Aotearoa is a collective of 13 local organisations that exist in rural communities around the country. Each REAP (Rural Education Activities Programmes) works within its respective community to deliver education and whānau focused programmes and services that would often be more easily accessible in urban centres.
For many people in rural communities, REAPs are “go-to” organisations, dedicated to finding accessible solutions to a diverse range of needs. Whether it’s tackling the aftermath of big weather events, distributing kai over lockdown or even supporting individual whānau in need, REAPs across New Zealand are on hand for trusted, considered and often life-changing support.
Congratulations to all the semi-finalists in the category.
A student who attends Alternative Education was not getting there until after 9.30am each morning due to having to take his younger siblings to Primary School. Then they were needing to leave by 2.30pm each afternoon to pick them up again as Mum was working before and after school at commercial cleaning jobs.
We spoke with Mum to say that this could not continue, and looked at how REAP Marlborough could help the whānau overcome the barriers to being able to work so that Mum could be there before & after school for the younger tamariki.
Mum expressed an interest in becoming a Barista so she attended a 4 hour workshop with our Barista Tutor Brooke, this went really well and Mum gained confidence.
Just to make sure Mum was fully confident Shona from REAP Marlborough also arranged a 1:1 follow-up Barista training session.
We then enrolled her on a First Aid course, and finally helped her to write a CV. An interview was arranged by Mum herself at the local BP petrol station, and Mum armed with her new skills and CV was interviewed for a Barista position 4.30pm – 11.30pm (these hours meant that Dad would be home to look after the tamariki).
GREAT NEWS! Mum got the job and now our rangatahi is no longer late to his classes and is more engaged with his learning.