Wednesday, June 21, 2017
If you have been to visit Rice Cube the international meeting on Friday nights at South West Baptist Church, in Balcairn Street, you will know the familiar face of Claire Russell who has been leading this group since 2011. Around 60 people turn up each Friday night, with ages ranging from 3 to 70 to eat together, play games and to study English.
Claire has a huge heart for international people in our community. She believes this stems from her childhood experience of growing up in Rotorua and going to a predominantly Maori school. This was her first experience of a culture "different from her own". She also witnessed the bus loads of people who came to visit the area from overseas.
Now, in her third decade, it seems that a lot of her previous work and studies have helped prepare her for her work at Rice Cube. After completing a degree at Canterbury University in Education, Claire taught overseas in Korea for three years. She has also taught English As a Second Language in Christchurch and also did a six month stint in Fiji doing missions and social development work. In additional to all this, Claire has completed a Theology degree at Laidlaw College.
It was more by chance that Claire got involved at Rice Cube, though. During her time in Korea, she met a girl named Kylie and then met her again in Christchurch. It was Kylie who asked Claire to co-lead Rice Cube in preparation for taking over the responsibility as she was heading back overseas.
In taking on this role, Claire has found it to be very rewarding. She says that she is a person that loves to connect people and that is what Rice Cube is all about. It brings people together of all ages, and people who are new to a country often struggle with loneliness. "As a group, we offer support and friendship and the environment is very inclusive and welcoming" enthuses Claire.
2016 brought some changes to the Rice Cube gatherings. Last year the group spilt in order to meet the needs of the different age groups. On Friday nights the adults and families meet at Halswell site from 6pm – 8.30pm and the teens meet at the Spreydon site of South West Baptist Church from 5.30pm – 8pm. Claire would also like to highlight other new local opportunities for international people here: English language classes run on Wednesday mornings 9-11am at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre for $4. This follows on from the success of the classes that were started in Wigram a couple of years ago. And secondly, there is now a huge amount of resources available for the international community at the new library. She suggests that people go into the library and ask what is there.
Apart from organising Ricecube, Claire is also a pastor at South West Baptist church which sees her busy in other roles. When she gets time away from it all, Claire likes to read, go for walks and holiday in her camper.
Rice Cube is bringing a wealth of opportunities for international people to make lasting connections. Claire says “If you would like to have a great social night out and some great food, pop along on Friday nights to the South West Baptist Church in Balcairn St.” If you would like to contact her, phone 3384163 ext 242 or firstname.lastname@example.org