Building community bonds in Dunedin South

Dunedin South has its share of challenges. Last Saturday over 50 people gathered at the Mercy Parish community centre in Dunedin South to discuss how they could  empower their communities to respond locally and ‘weave bonds of belonging’.

They heard about what one participant described as an oncoming “demographic tsunami” of an aging population.

Other stated challenges included:

  • Flat and wet geography with consequent threats of flooding from rising sea levels
  • Old and cold housing – without adequate insulation
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of access to amenities
  • Low educational attainment
  • Low incomes (less than $30,000 per annum per household)

Church agencies – including Catholic Social Services and local parishioners are already responding to the needs and rebuilding a sense of community.

In South Dunedin the efforts at rebuilding community are based on the simple recognition that all people have inherent dignity and worth. Everyone has a part to play.

The work currently underway includes:

  • Community lunches at which the Church regularly hosts over 50 people at the Mercy Centre
  • Food distribution to those in need
  • Community garden care and management
  • Some skills training such as helping with food preparation and gaining certification in food handling

Local people are also involved in helping the elderly with home maintenance such as insulation.

Community lunches also help to break down isolation and to foster bonds of belonging. A Catholic Social Services representative told the workshop that “There is a huge mix of people at the lunches and it’s almost like we are sitting together under the big umbrella of God.”

Caritas Director, Julianne Hickey, said that a sense of community is vital for the wellbeing and health of a society.

“We have the benefits of technological advancement, economic growth and a wider range of choices but these appearances of wealth can mask a poverty of spirit.

Fr Sani Lam (Assistant Priest at the Catholic Mercy Parish), said that communities were facing a prevalent culture of individualism and materialism.

So, “people tend to focus on themselves and close their doors. They lose a sense of being connected to others – friends, neighbours and other people generally.”

To help counter this trend the Parish tries to encourage a greater sense of community. “We encourage parishioners to go out and say hello to their neighbours. ”

“To connect with other people – especially their neighbours – and to get to know them” said Lam.

Saturday’s workshop was organised by Mercy Parish, Dunedin Diocese and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.

It was the first of the Caritas “Weaving Bonds of Belonging” Workshops being held as a prelude to Social Justice Week on 10-17 September.

The next one takes place on Saturday 12 August in Hamilton.

Read the media release



News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , , ,