Hopeful Disciple and family after leaving Gloriavale last year. Now they are desperate for help to get to the dentist.
A family who left Gloriavale nine months ago are fundraising for dental treatment they say was caused by years of being deprived of dental care.
Hopeful Disciple and his wife Victory left the West Coast Christian community to protect their children.
“Wrong was being done. People are being harmed and there was no way to deal with the people doing wrong,” Disciple said.
“We realised that our seven kids – we had six when we left – realising that the likelihood of them growing up unharmed was virtually zero.”
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They were working and living on a dairy farm on the West Coast when their farmhouse was struck by lightning in September.
“We lost everything again and the local community was a huge support getting another house and building us up again, but it still takes its toll,” he said.
The next shock was their dental bill, he said.
They visited the dentist for the first time since leaving and were shocked but not surprised when they were told they were in “desperate” need of treatment.
Disciple, 31, said those under 18 at Gloriavale are given access to free dental care, but once he turned 18 he felt like he couldn’t ask for dental treatment – never mind extras for dental hygiene appointments or floss.
He was allowed to go to the dentist just before he left as he was in severe pain, and was told he needed thousands of dollars worth of work.
The isolated West Coast Christian community of Gloriavale has set itself apart from the rest of society for more than 50 years.
But he said he could not ask the leaders for that much money, instead opting for the dentist to fix the worst tooth.
“Any time you need anything for yourself you feel bad,” he said.
“Most of us wait until the pain is so bad we haven’t slept for weeks before we feel we are allowed to ask for treatment and then often get denied because there is no money,” he said.
His wife twice asked for a hygienist appointment and was refused.
According to its annual return to Charities Services for the 2019/20 tax year, The Christian Church Community Trust, the tax-free registered charity behind Gloriavale, had a profit of almost $2.8 million and assets of $41m.
Its annual revenue was $18m – down from $20m in 2019.
Disciple said they had become so used to living in pain, it felt “normal”.
He was surprised to find out when he left how inexpensive toothpaste and floss picks were in the supermarket.
He said the couple were both in severe pain and needed fillings and root canals worth around $8000.
A landmark Employment Court ruling last week decided that three former Gloriavale members who worked up to 70 hours a week were not volunteers, a decision which could pave the way for them and others in the community to be compensated.
Big customers are now reconsidering their relationships with the secretive West Coast community over concerns of potential worker exploitation and the use of child labour at its businesses.