Neighbourhood centres connect communityMay 8, 2020
Today marks the start of Neighbourhood Centre Week (NCW) 2020, 8-15 May. This nationwide initiative celebrates the role of neighbourhood centres in local communities and across Australia.
JNC is just one of 1000+ neighbourhood centres across Australia (more neighbourhood centres than McDonalds restaurants, in fact!). What neighbourhood centres have in common is our inclusiveness: everyone’s welcome, and we bring people in our community together through volunteering and engagement in programs.
The 2020 NCW theme is ‘Loneliness: the solution is community’.
Recent research shows one in four Australians are lonely, and loneliness has significant social, health and economic impacts. We’re social creatures, thriving on social connection and companionship. When we don’t receive this regularly, we become lonely, which can negatively impact our mental health, our physical health and our overall happiness and sense of purpose.
“The most effective way to reduce loneliness is to make people feel connected to their community.”Irene Verins, VicHealth
About Neighbourhood Centre Week
Neighbourhood centres help address loneliness by creating safe, welcoming and inclusive places for people of all ages and backgrounds to meet and form meaningful connections. When people engage in community programs and projects like those JNC offers, they become part of a community.
When it comes to loneliness, neighbourhood centres work. In a recent survey, of 47,000 people, the top three benefits identified from participating at a neighbourhood centre were associated with community connection, participation and reducing social isolation.
But I am sure when the theme for 2020, Loneliness: the solution is community, was developed, no one would have imagined how much all our lives would have changed in the months leading into NCW 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or foreshadowed that working in our communities would now be so different. Current public health restrictions have meant that JNC can’t do what’s core to our business: be an open door to everyone. As the lockdown started, one of my hardest decisions was to close our doors to the public. Being open and accessible is the very essence of JNC.
During the pandemic, we’ve seen community members we work with become isolated. We’ve heard many stories about how lonely people are feeling, being unable to go out or see others, go to their JNC group or outing or go out shopping with their JNC worker.
We have put in place many new services and strategies to support people, ensure they have food, check in and keep people connected. We have changed all our services, focusing on non-contact support: home delivering shopping and fresh fruit and vegetables and keeping in touch with people through regular phone calls, social media and services that are moving online.
It has been a rollercoaster ride of change and our fabulous staff have been amazing, creative and worked so hard. We hope that the strategies we have put in place have helped people feel part of a community at this challenging time, even if it is just feeling connected through friendly phone calls or a familiar face dropping off a food box at the door. We hope these have made an, albeit small, contribution to their feeling a bit less lonely and isolated.
We also believe at this time that making sure people have clear and accurate information is important, so we have produced a special COVID-19 Directory and updated our website to include lots of current information – please check it out here or follow us on FaceBook or Instagram. As well as current information, we have information webcasts and many resources and ideas for staying connected including activities, wellbeing ideas and other tips.
We hope that we will be able to open our doors again soon and provide direct services, so people can actively be part of their community. And we hope that we can transition to face to face programs in coming months, to ensure fewer people feel lonely and isolated.
Everyone at the JNC is looking forward to the time when we are all able to gather again in person, share experiences and create connections face to face.
Happy Neighbourhood Centre Week. And stay well and stay safe.
Janet Green, JNC General Manager