Community support shines in lockdown

11 May 2020

Community centres around Wellington may have been closed during the lockdown, but that didn’t stop the people who run them from reaching out to support their neighbourhoods.

The sign outside the Kilbirnie/Lyall Bay Community Centre.

Kilbirnie-Lyall Bay Community Centre maintained social connections with vulnerable individuals.

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Many went above and beyond to ensure no one was forgotten, as the capital shut down for four weeks during the national Covid-19 response.

Wellington City Council Community Services Manager Jenny Rains says the level of community-led support displayed during the lockdown was heartening to see.

“Community centres provide an anchor for local communities, and being in lockdown has reiterated to us all the importance of local connections and knowing your neighbours. It is fantastic how our community centres stepped up to the challenge, finding new ways to reach out, support and engage with their communities. Our community centres will continue to play an important role as we plan for recovery.”

Mt Vic Hub launched online virtual Friday drinks, a weekly quiz, and offered a writing group to keep residents connected. Hub trustees checked in with the Mount Victoria community regularly with emails and texts, and they even sourced a supply of yarn for an elderly woman so she could keep crafting during lockdown.

Voglemorn Community Hub also used Zoom to keep up morale in the neighbourhood with games’ nights and Friday drinks catch-ups, while Karori Community Centre was a conduit for information, actively seeking out resources to support residents. Its Karori Youth Centre supported young people via phone, social media and Zoom.

Prior to the lockdown, Brooklyn Community Centre distributed 'know your neighbourhood' cards provided by the Council to encourage residents to look out for each other. The centre provided a home-based childcare service to local essential workers, and set up an online telephone tree so vulnerable people in the community received a regular phone call. The centre also produced an online version of the monthly Brooklyn Tattler, keeping the community entertained and up-to-date with Covid-19 advice and information on services available to assist people in need.

Miramar and Maupuia Community Centre adapted its food help initiative, Kaibasket, so it could continue to provide it through the lockdown period, along with Seki Kai, which helps Māori and Pacifica families in need. The team reached out to check residents were okay and referred them onto support services when necessary.

Kilbirnie-Lyall Bay Community Centre maintained social connections with vulnerable individuals via regular phone calls, posted cards and notes, contactless drop-offs of essential supplies as required, and assisted people with setting up technology such as social media and Zoom so they could stay connected. The centre was also used for flu vaccinations for the local medical centre.

Khandallah Town Hall and Cornerstone Community Centre stayed in touch with all the groups that would usually be utilising the town hall, with regular emails and by encouraging group members to connect via the centre’s Facebook page. Centre trustees assisted community groups with setting up Zoom to help them socialise during the lockdown.

Johnsonville Community Centre opened up its premises to the local medical centre to provide flu jabs, keeping at risk community members separated from any unwell patients. Linden Social Centre connected its community with food parcels and the Student Volunteer Army, and donated pizzas to families in need. The centre was also used for the distribution of PPE locally.

The Newtown Community and Cultural Centre moved quickly to set up a Covid-19 community Facebook support group where people could share ideas and support each other. The centre started publishing its e-newsletter weekly rather than fortnightly to keep the community informed, and kept its website updated with activities, videos, and tips. They also ran a Virtual Holiday Programme and its coordinators hosted community meetings and kōrero catch-ups, live gigs and events on Facebook, and did phone check-ins with whānau and their regular visitors, referring them to support agencies when required.

The staff and volunteers from many of the other centres across the city also engaged in various and innovative ways to ensure their community was supported through online events, daily phone checks, sharing information and linking them with essential services.

“I’m sure Wellingtonians will be looking forward to their community centres reopening to continue the fabulous support they offer the people in our city as we move into recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Jenny says.