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The Star Latest Christchurch news at www. .kiwi Thursday April 6 2017 25 Our People Matthew Mark Supporting vulnerable is his mission Matthew Mark has spent three years creating a supportive environment for families with children in hospital. Now he wants to cast the net wider as city missioner. Bridget Rutherford spoke to him about his new role, racing the Coast to Coast and helping youths do it too ACTION: Matthew Mark (left) training with students as part of the Coast to Coast Rangers programme. So you’ve just taken over the role of city missioner – what was it that led you to that? I guess probably about three and a half to four years ago I was sitting in the corporate world. I just got to a place where I needed to do something different, and something where I could make a difference in the community. The opportunity came up to join the team at Ronald McDonald House South Island and I thought that was a really great opportunity to come into a place where you are serving people in the community who are feeling vulnerable in circumstances that are outside of their control. And I could use my corporate skills there. My time at Ronald McDonald House has been absolutely fantastic, but when I was made aware of Michael Gorman’s resignation, it ignited a different passion within me where you look at those vulnerable people in the Christchurch community. That need is growing significantly. How long have you been in the role now? I’m just over one week in. It’s been absolutely fantastic. The team of staff and volunteers are so passionate. Everyone is here for the right reasons and wants to make a difference. It felt so natural. The team and even our clients are so warm and welcoming, it just felt right. What do you hope to achieve in the new role? I think one thing that has become evident is the community doesn’t necessarily understand the depth of what is offered by the City Mission. There’s the opportunity to share those touch points we have in the community. We also want to share that we can only do this because we are supported by the local community. So to get that message out there and the need that’s there, coupled with the opportunity for others to support us. Did you have much to do with the City Mission before you took up the role? From a supportive perspective, we donated both practically and financially. How long were you Ronald McDonald House South Island chief executive? I was there for three years. I guess if you look at what my values are, they are family and community. The opportunity that arose with Ronald McDonald House is one about supporting families when their world has been turned upside-down and the rug’s been ripped out from beneath their feet. It’s a massive leveller to be able to go in and create an environment that’s safe and secure so they can focus on their child – that was very much in my heart. Will you miss that work, or are there similarities between that and being at the City Mission? I think there are a lot of similarities. The work of the City Mission is not necessarily about children in hospital. But it’s about families, and providing an environment where you’re caring for, and creating a sense of community with them as well. The next step is showing people as a whole, irrespective of where they come from, that we treat every single person with dignity, compassion and respect. What did you learn from your time at Ronald McDonald House? I guess you go on a journey of actually understanding, working through different situations and understanding where people come from. When you sit down and hear their stories, you can sense the emotion and anguish, and it starts to connect with you. And hearing their stories of how the environment and support helped them during that tough time, it resonates with your own heartbeat. Is it an emotional place to be, seeing families going through what they are going through? People might think it’s a sad place, even when they’re going through the toughest times, there’s an amazing resilience there. That strength of character – it’s a privilege to be able to watch that. You get to be that tower of strength in the middle of their tough moment and be there for them. That’s no different to the Christchurch City Mission. We’ve got people going through challenging situations. And you could argue that some of it may be the result of situations or circumstances that they choose to do differently, or it could be generational stuff – it could be a whole raft of different reasons. But the reality is they are in that situation, so how do we provide an environment that makes them feel valued and provide a safer and more positive place for them. What were you doing before Ronald McDonald House? I was in banking and finance. I had a couple of small businesses and also property developing. And when you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time? I absolutely love the outdoors. I’m a keen runner, cyclist, and am into adventure racing and multi-sport racing. We mentor youths who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to be part of multi-sport. So I’m part of the Coast to Coast Rangers programme. But outside of work my world revolves around my family, and being in the outdoors in this amazing environment. NEW ROLE: Matthew Mark has just taken on the role of city missioner, after three years at Ronald McDonald House South Island. PHOTO: GEOFF SLOAN Do you still compete in adventure races? I’m too old and haggard now (laughs). Now I do it for pure fun, it’s more just about the journey and environment and helping some of our young people experience it. I’ve done the Coast to Coast a couple of times, I’ve ticked that off well and truly. Are there any races that you are particularly proud of? In the individual Coast to Coast I managed a seventh so I’m reasonably proud of that. I’ve sat on the podium for multisport day events a few times as well. Did you grow up in Christchurch? I grew up in Masterton. I did my schooling through there and worked in Auckland for a short time and then moved to Christchurch purposefully to raise our family. How many kids do you have? I have four children. My eldest is 25, Daniel, and he’s a builder. Then our second, Dominic, is a signwriter. Our daughter Mikaela is 22, and is in England working as a nanny and enjoying a bit of travel. And my youngest son, Jaramey, is in his last year at Christchurch Boys’ High School. And do they have a love for endurance racing too? No, but they are my number one cheer squad. And what about your wife, is she part of the cheer squad as well? She’s the number one cheer squad (laughs). Sheila is a pastoral care worker at our church. How did you two meet? We met at school, we were high school sweethearts. I spent my last year of high school in Auckland and we met there. We’ll be married for 28 years this year.