In a small community timing is everything. The same ideas may float to the surface again and again. What makes the difference is having a person, or people, to take the ideas and keep them alive and from them create a reality. That’s what’s happening in the small township of Kaiwaka in the gateway to Northland.
A group of like minded citizens were brought together in late 2014 as part of an initiative to improve what Kaiwaka has to offer and how it works with its community. Some members felt called to take up the challenge. This is how our group, Kaiwaka Cares, was born.
Since then the community service has grown to include re-development and upkeep of the community garden as well as the establishment of a drop-in centre – open three days a week. Whilst the garden feeds the body, the drop-in centre feeds the soul and the feeling of community within Kaiwaka.
Our committee has learnt as number of lessons over the past six months, and I am sure there will be more. Any time a new person enters a community they bring their own life’s experiences and knowledge. Often they are enthusiastic and want to change the world overnight and fill the gaps that a newcomer sees. It is hard to hold back and allow change to happen more organically.
In a community as old as Kaiwaka no idea is new, it has been thought of and attempted previously. The trick is to learn from the past, and to preserve and gain support from leaders in the community and the respected elders. In particular our idea of having a drop-in social space was unpopular with some. Many times we heard; it wouldn’t work, it was a waste of time, and how everyone already knows everyone.
We turned this around with a bit of thick skin, determination, stubbornness and resilience. By sitting down and sharing a cuppa with some of these people we have not only gained their knowledge and advice, we know they have our backs and we have their support. Yes there are still detractors, some more vocal than others but over time I hope that will change.
The biggest gift you can do for yourself when volunteering or creating something new for your community is to pace yourself. Take care of yourself first. Don’t try and do everything the first day, give it time. Take small steps and allow each step to fulfil its potential before expanding or trying to jump onto the next level.
I have a quote on the wall by my computer from Mother Teresa: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” Putting this into our community is one of my goals. As a community if you leverage the skills and experience of all then you will have a community that your grandchildren will be proud of.
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