News | 26 March 2021
Share on social

Neighbours Day: Our community heroes

Neighbours Day Aotearoa is about fostering a sense of whanaungatanga and manaakitanga within our communities to make them stronger.

In this two-part series, we highlight some of the great mahi the people in our neighbourhoods are doing to build connections and ensure everyone feels welcome.

Free Store volunteers with the Cafe Neo crew.

Making everyone feel special at the Free Store

The Free Store, which has been around for over 10 years, is a place where re-distributed food from Wellington’s eateries is made free for those in need of it. Since 2019, they’ve been working with Café Neo, one of The Free Store's 65 regular suppliers donating their left-over food to this community.

“We’re helping people that usually wouldn’t gather, come together and create a community,” says the Free Store’s General Manager, Alana Hathaway.

In partnership with Café Neo, they host monthly Soup and Games nights, bringing people together to eat delicious food and enjoy each other's company.

“These are very popular with our community. We usually have 60-100 people turn up each month, and everyone is welcome, whether you’re directly involved with the Free Store or not.”

They are also about to re-launch their birthday parties, where they celebrate anyone within the community who has recently had a birthday.

“It’s just something small to make our people feel special and that they belong. Any event or things we do will always focus on creating a sense of belonging. It’s all about making sure everyone knows that they are a gift to our community,” Alana says.

The Free Store, at 211 Willis Street, is currently looking for some new volunteers, so make sure you visit their website if you’re interested.

Connections made in the kitchen and garden

Food brings everyone together - especially for Michael Person, a chef at the Wellington Boys' and Girls' Institute [BGI].

“We’re currently running community cooking classes for the Dixon Street flat residents and in April we will be starting classes for the university students who are living in the area.”

Michael says these classes, and their Neighbours Day events, are a great way for people to get to know their communities.

Their great work doesn’t stop there. Michael and his team host weekly community garden workshops, where people can gather to learn and build relationships.

“We also provide food from our rescue food programmes to local organisations in order to give those in need a place to grab a sandwich or pastry in an environment that is open and nurturing.”

Because of these efforts, the BGI community is constantly growing, learning, and has become more connected than ever before.

Creating an online community

Friendly, caring and supportive. That’s how Rayleen describes her neighbourhood.

Recently, one of Rayleen’s neighbours reached out to everyone on the street, encouraging them to join a Facebook group that they had created.

They shared news of the new online group with a quick mail drop and the group now has 43 members.

“I’ve seen the group be used for sharing surplus fruits from our neighbour’s home produce, wrong courier deliveries being found and general messages and updates about the community being shared.

“A neighbour recently suggested a picnic at our local park on our street. This was a successful event with around 12-15 families coming together with their children. And this weekend, we’re sharing seed packets from Wellington City Council as part of Neighbours Day celebrations.”

Creating this online group has been a great way to put faces to names, Rayleen says.

“We now have a stronger sense of community and care for each other, looking after each other’s wellbeing and safety.”

Want to create a Facebook group for your community? Head to Facebook and build yours now.