The Halswell Community Project was set up in February 2013 although some of the things that we now do were operating some time before that. We're an enthusiastic but small group who are keen on the idea of helping the wonderful people who live in wider Halswell to connect with each other and into all the great things that go on here in this community. As part of that we run the Halswell Newsletter, the Facebook page and the Halswell Website.
However, it is less clear what is on offer for older adults or for families where the children are now at high school or beyond, or for people who do not have children. It was also not very easy for anyone moving into the area to find out what goes on in the area and join local clubs or activities. For kids that are not into sport, it is unclear what is currently available for them to do informally that might help them connect up with other teenagers in the local area. This is a problem particularly because we don't have a local highschool and young people here go to many different highschools when they leave the local primary schools.
Research overseas has shown that people talk to each other about 18 times more at markets than they do in a supermarket and our observations, at the few markets that we've so far run, indicate that people do indeed stop and chat with each other much more than happens in the busyness of the supermarket.
And why is all this community stuff important? Well, people who feel connected to others around them are generally much happier than those who are not. On top of that, as the earthquakes here showed us the communities that have more, varied connections were also more resilient. Lyttelton, for example where there had been a great deal of community development work done, was one of the hardest hit places but was also one of the fastest to get their community activities and events reestablished. They were also very able to tap into the many skills in their community and get people with all sorts of different problems the help they needed.
That capacity to cope is a really useful thing, and not just in a big catastrophe like an earthquake. It is also really useful for people to be well connected to their neighbours when they have their own smaller individual or family difficulties. Anything from breaking your leg,getting ill or having a relative die or even having a meeting scheduled unexpectedly, can suddenly make it useful to know people locally who you can call on for help. Our communities are important assets for our wellbeing, and we should be building and maintaining them as much as we can.