Active Citizens Aotearoa update

The Active Citizens programme is currently in 68 countries worldwide with over 220,000 Active Citizens trained.
The Programme was launched in New Zealand in November 2017 with an Info Evening attending by 100 stakeholders and interested public. The first 3 courses in 2018 were in March and July, followed by a December youth course in South Auckland, the inaugural Active Citizens Alumni Xmas gathering and marketplace, and courses in Auckland and Wellington Jan-Feb 2019. We have just completed the May 2019 course and another for July is fully booked with 23 new Active Citizens ready to be trained.

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Of the total of 140 course attendees there were;
30% Pakeha or NZ European (50% youth)
15% Māori (30% youth)
25% Asian incl. Indian (75% youth)
15% Pacific (90% youth)
15% African, Latin and Middle Eastern (50% youth)

(* youth defined as age 16-24)

Active Citizens Aotearoa has 9 Splice trained facilitators; 5 female and 4 male; 
1 Maori, 1 Pacific, 1 Arabic, 1 English, 1 Chinese and 4 Pakeha or mixed race Kiwi. 
Active Citizens NZ also has master facilitators Sivendra Michael (NZ based from 2019), and Charo Lanao (UK) available for NZ facilitation. 

We have seen the Active Citizens cascaded model at work in Aotearoa, with social action projects being supported through their stages of growth - including Do Good Feel Good, Our Stories on Plate, and the Te Ao Maori team behind Piki Project.

Keep an eye out for Spring courses in Auckland and our expanded annual Xmas gathering, which this year will also include a social action and enterprise day symposium. More details soon …

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HEARTFUL ARTS VICTORIA VILLASANA

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At Splice we know that a combination of connection and creativity is the key to healthy communities. We are now into our third year of our Heartful Arts Programme and the featured artist for this year is Mexican textile artist Victoria Villasana.

One of Victoria’s most famous pieces, “Boys Do Cry” is about breaking down male stereotypes. Heartful Arts project manager Maddy O’Dwyer says, “I knew our communities needed to hear this, because toxic masculinity contributes to our appalling suicide rates in young men”.

This internationally-acclaimed artist has been visiting New Zealand throughout May 2019 for a month of creative community development, visiting Wellington, Auckland,

Rotorua, and Northland towns Kaitaia, Kerikeri and Kaikohe. Visitors to her events were able to listen to her speak and create a beautiful piece of embroidery art using images of women such as Jacinda Ardern, Valerie Adams and Malala Yousafzai.

John MacDonald, Head of Mission for Splice believes that the world has been underestimating the impact of arts on our wellbeing. “The music, the colour, the words mooching around in our souls need a chance to spill into the world. Heartful Arts is an ideal vehicle for the healing journey.”

During her time here Victoria has been creating large public artworks with local communities, running workshops and sharing her knowledge. “I’m so grateful that my curiosity allowed me to find a way to express my heart through a creative medium and it’s a wonderful feeling that people are connecting with this.” says Villasana.

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Our Heartful Artist for 2019 finished her time in Aotearoa with a large-scale mural in Cross Street in Auckland, being created with street artist Paul Walsh and members of the the public. The mural commemorates the 15 March 2019 Christchurch terror attacks. This piece will stay on display for the community to enjoy after Villasana returns home, to remind us all how Heartful Art helps us to connect with our creativity and our community.

The Human Library

Most of us are familiar with how a library works. But what happens when you replace the books… with people?

Splice’s Human Library seeks to find out. The Human Library is an event where members of the public (borrowers) can ‘issue out’ human ‘books’ with diverse perspectives, stories and lived experiences for a short amount of time.

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Festival for the Future 2016 was the first time Splice opened a Human Library. Maddy Dwyer, Project Manager and Creative Communicator said it was exciting to watch come together. “The first Human Library we did was only an hour long for the lunch time of a conference, and it

booked out within 5 minutes!” Once conversation started flowing, it was hard to stem. “We almost had to separate a few books and participants because they wanted to continue talking.”

Since 2016, Splice has run an additional 3 Human Library sessions, two focussing on specific sectors of the community that suffers discrimination.  The first offered conversations with people who have experienced homelessness while the second enlightened borrowers to life’s challenges after a HIV-positive diagnosis. A Human Library was held on Neighbour’s Day 2019 and more are planned for later in the year.

Maddy explains the origins of The Human Library. “‘Menneskebiblioteket’ as it is called in Danish, was developed in Copenhagen in the spring of 2000 as a project for Roskilde Festival… The Human Library is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.”

The Human Library gives people the chance to meet and have conversations with people they may not otherwise interact with in everyday situations. “We were nervous about people’s reactions to being challenged so seeing the respect people paid each other was really heart-warming,” says Maddy.

“I was brought up with the rule “no religion and no politics” at the dinner table, and the disconnected echo chamber of social media only impresses more that being challenged and challenging others has to be a negative and avoidable experience. But here, we actually see joy and understanding coming out of this deliberate act of social rebellion.”

The Human Library brings together Splice’s values of radical hospitality and meaningfully connected communities. For Maddy, seeing discrimination and judgement being broken down in real time between people is a powerful experience, an event that Splice will continue to run in the future. “People really engage with each other and with challenging ideas, and they come away smiling.”

KINDNESS - A SIGNATURE FOR A CITY CENTRE

Kindness - so simple yet with the power to transform our day, our place and how we might feel about the world in general. 

Splice once again hit the street for Random Acts of Kindness Day 1 September handing out 5000 Little Pots of Kindness (honey) as the catalyst for further acts of kindness.  Joining us this year was New World Metro giving out gold coin donation coffees and in-store activity.  The gold coin donations went to supporting the Community Fridge at Griffiths Gardens, an important piece of social infrastructure, supported by this neighbourhood supermarket every week.  11 Cafes of Kindness were also pumping up the kindness with random coffees and accompanying kindness card.  The Auckland Street Choir came down lending upbeat vocals to the early kindness-commute and the St James Theatre hoardings outside the library got a fine dousing of kindness quotes.

Promoting kindness via a small pot of honey on Queen St elicits a fairly consistent sequence of emotional response  Uncertainty - Surprise - Joy - Warmth and more often than not a commitment of understanding, to do "in kind" for the next person.

You can check out the full range of videos made for Random Acts of Kindness at Splice Auckland on YouTube - from locals talking about kindness, footage on the day and all eight episodes of "Geoff - Envoy of Kindness"

Mik Smellie was also on 95 bfm talking about the kindness movement. Listen to that here.

Kindness everyone knows it, everyone likes it - can we be more active with this wonderfully positive expression of compassion for each other?

"Love this! Kindness is such a little thing that can have such a big impact! Let's all show a little more and watch the changes!"  - feedback from social media

Such random acts of kindness cannot happen in a neighbourhood with the support of others.  A particular thank you to the following:

Auckland Council - for the encouragement and support to make the city centre a kinder place

Hikutaia Honey - for access to the honey, generous accommodation and feeding of the honey pot fillers

New World Metro - for joining with Splice in being part of the active delivery of kindness and their ongoing support of the Community Fridge at Pa Rongorongo

Heart of the City - for helping us promote RAK 18 and being part of the kindness video campaigns

For the following city centre Cafes of Kindness - Chuffed, Guerilla Espresso, Johnny feedback, Eight Thirty, Coffix K'Rd, Remedy, Citizen Q, Scratch Bakers,  Pollen and Reuben's hole-in-the-wall Coffee in Vulcan Lane.  Fine establishments one and all.

Active Building Management - for carry the RAK 18 posters into many lifts of the apartments around the neighbourhood

To the "splicers" who gave up their Friday to help spread kindness

Finally to all those who act with kindness in the neighbourhood.

KINDNESS - a signature for a city centre.

Walking – one sense at a time

Noticing and understanding what the city feels like through senses may help us understand how it works. The smell of spices and sauces steaming from a pop-up food container, the sounds of buildings erected on Saturday morning, the burning trash, car park’s hot ventilated into the street air, the chilly southern breeze all unfold different stories behind them. Realizing what the streets feel like may thus link us to the broader social issues – what does a livable city smell like, what is the sound of social justice, how does pollution reveal itself to the touch – these can be kept in mind when exploring the associations between city’s sensory clues and the mental places they send us to.

For one walker the wild mixtures of smells and sounds along Queens street may be unpleasant and something to get away from, while for someone else this diversity may be connected to how their home city feels like. Sharing these personal evoked connections is ultimately a chance to connect with the fellow walkers, learn something about each other and how it all relates to the streets we share.

Times & dates:

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9/08-9pm & 11/08-11am

sound-walk

24/08-8pm & 25/08-11am

touch-walk

6/09-8pm & 8/09-11am

sight-walk

18/09-8pm & 22/09-11am

The meeting points for each walk will vary. For the updates, please follow the Splice facebook page.

For each of the walks comfortable walking shoes & some water supplies (helpful to stay alert) would be a good idea.

The walks are free, but we kindly ask you to register, as the number of people for each walk is limited. To let us know that you would like to join any of the walks, please drop a line to sandy@splice.org.nz

The walks are led by a cultural geographer/artist Iryna Zamuruieva aka www.thatsnotthepoint.com

This project acknowledges the support of Auckland Council and Splice.

   

  

A new Experience - sensing the city through smell

Walking - one sense at a time

#smell

Humans and dogs came together to investigate the smells of Auckland city center on June 2nd. If it was a competition probably dogs would have won but alas, we couldn't understand what they were trying to map.

Hence on to the humans: After a brief round of introductions and sharing favorite smells with each other, Myers Park found itself full of diffused individuals with their maps and pens, sniffing and noting, wandering into all its corners.

Walking in the city may not appear to be the most exciting experience, especially when the walks in nature are a short drive or a ferry ride away. Watching out for cars, waiting for the traffic lights, inhaling all the traffic exhaust fumes - all that, surely, paints one side of being in the city.

I would like to believe there is another way – a deeply attentive one, the one where the smells are sniffed, sounds heard, textures touched, and tastes are tasted. Walking this way transforms the city space from a transit zone where a route may be just a way from one destination to the other, into a place where a different kind of experience is co-created, different relationships are made with material or abstract things and maybe even curious questions are asked about the way things emerge.

Take a burning trash bin, for example. We were very lucky that day to witness such an occasion on Queen Street. The bin was smoking 15 meters away from our 1st meeting point. By this time, people had somewhat adjusted to paying attention to smells, after learning to ‘catch’ them in the past 15 minutes. The smoking trash bin therefore presented an opportunity; tracking down the odour of smoldering plastic. Although another hour later, someone became slightly concerned: “What bad citizens we are, so immersed into this sniffing that we just let it smoke there without thinking maybe to call someone.”

There was a lot of laughter and humor all along the smell-walking. During the 3rdrd stage, where people, either in groups or individually chose the topic of their interest to make a ‘smell-portrait’, one of the pairs chose ‘ocean’ as their theme. Interestingly they did not make it down the waterfront to do the sniffing there but went into a luxury jewelry store and had the assistants show them the pieces that contained pearls in them and sniffed those!

This smell-walk was part of the “Walking, one sense at a time” project series. In this series of creative city exploration, we focus on one specific sense per walk: smell, sound, visual, tactile, taste. Somewhere on the intersection of arts, research and community activating, the question we set off with at the start of the exploration was, ‘what changes when you try walking more attentively, making use of your senses’?

Besides reframing a burning trash bin as a rich source for smell investigation (surely a legitimate and exciting occasion), a few things regarding broader topics have emerged. For one, the smell exploration has brought some axis to the table: as someone mentioned, the dress hanging rack they stuck their nose into smelled like luxury – the question ‘can you smell expensive?’ followed immediately.

While we did not find a definitive answer, speculating on whether it might smell like scented aroma candles at massage salons, there must have been a difference between that and the “two-dollar shop smell” someone detected at one of the road intersections. What then does cheap smell like and what does it mean that in certain areas one or the other smell can be traced?

Understanding smells through the ‘money’ lens evolved further as someone mentioned one of the smells made them want to spend money. Ironically, when they set out to investigate whether the shops where luring their customers in with smells – it was disappointing – even bakeries didn’t have any bread aromas. Someone else observed how commercial cookie stores smell different from where they are baked from scratch, because of an overwhelming chocolaty sweet smell.

These seemingly innocent findings speak to a broader concern over homogenization of cities and the globalization processes. Behind the curtain of construction dust smell wafting from numerous construction sites in the city center,  we may discern the smells that are no longer part of the Auckland’s smellscape. We were lucky to have some participants who have been living in Auckland for decades and witnessed its change,  sharing their memories of the extinct smells: the cloves and cinnamon from a factory around Wolfe Street, where they, as students, would hang around occasionally because it smelled so great, or the smell of vinegar - when everyone knew the exact day they were distilling it in the city center; the breweries with their yeasty touch.

Remembering the smells that are no longer in Auckland’s air was not an exercise in nostalgic contemplation – rather an effort to be conscious of the processes of change in the city and how those processes may be understood better through say, smell sense. Detecting and keeping track of city smells is part of the small but growing practice in academia as well as some urban development communities.

Kate McLean, for example, has created smell-maps of the cities around the world, using some comprehensive data visualization techniques (aggregating the data from her participatory research on the intensity, proximity, duration and personal associations that accompany the detected smells).

Victoria Henshaw is another instance of a researcher taking olfactory experiences seriously attempting to see the bigger picture of urbanisation processes through them. Having written a book “Urban Smellscapes: Understanding and Designing Urban Smell Environments” she was primarily concerned with how an interrelationship between urban smell and place perception are determining sense of place. In designing this smell-walk, both McLean’s and Henshaw’s findings have proved to be incredibly insightful.  What connects these creative ventures of smell researchers and enthusiasts, is the search for other ways of knowing the environment. This, as a result, creates a richer basis for decision making, not least the policy ones.

Discussing the smells also reveals the personal connections people hold with their environments and sharing those can be a way of a very meaningful exchange with the fellow walkers/neighbors. People brought up how the smell of fresh paint carries an ‘I’m putting my life together now’ meaning. They spoke of their childhood and homes. People talked of how, for some, the city smelled so unnaturally, but how for others it was in this unnaturalness and the mixture of Asian food and cigarette smoke scents they felt at home. Smell can be a way to connect with fellow human beings and, in that joint process of discovering what smells mean to each of us, we can create a common understanding of the streets we share.

Certainly, our Saturday’s walk was highly dependent on the weather (thanks wind for leaving at least some smells in the air!), the participants’ personal backgrounds and experiences, the random chance of certain smell being there at the particular point in time, when one of us happened to be passing by and detecting it. Nevertheless, it was clear that having experienced this smell-attentive way of being in the city brought to the surface a few important topics: The cost of things in the places around us; the ways the things are being produced; the process of change in the city and the relationship between the personal stories and city histories. All those topics, if smelled carefully, are manifested in the city. Using our senses to dig in and discover them is an integral part of an ongoing attempt to understand the living processes surrounding us and co-create a just process of change.

*This walk was designed and brought into being by Iryna Zamuruieva with a kind support of Splice team.

OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD an exploration with Auckland city centre residents

Auckland city centre neighbourhood builders Splice, took a camera and went to apartment-dwelling residents with three simple questions:

What do you love of living in the city centre?

Where are the places outside of your apartments that you love?

If you had a magic wand what would you change?

The result is a short film, giving the city centre residential community of 50,000, a voice to express their love of the place they call home and consideration of how it could be even better.

 

The very heart of Auckland city has been undergoing a transformation in the past three decades.  Once the sole preserve of business with a strong tertiary presence, the city centre is now a neighbourhood encompassing the various communities who live, work, study, create and play. 

 

Heeding the call to go up rather than out, the ever growing residential community are increasingly expressing their place and identity in the city centre.  Commercially it can be seen by the presence of supermarkets and dairies but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover engaging neighbourhood opportunities, like a playgroup for parents and their under-fives, an active residents group, a community centre, tai chi on Thursdays etc.

 

Not everything about living amongst towering buildings is necessarily rosy. The risk of isolation in apartments is real, along with noise and particularly poor singing by late-night revellers, being some examples.  However for many who choose to call the city centre home, such issues are more than compensated for by the convenience of proximity to everything, the reality of walking rather than driving, some stunning parks, proximity to the water and the vibrant diversity of the neighbourhood.

 

Here’s some feedback from the initial screening:

“This is amazingly cool”

“You demonstrated the key messages and awareness including a collection of iconic places, great music & song with a taste of multicultural environment.”

“You should make another one”

“Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!! It really captures a beautiful vibe and spirit. We're very proud to be part of it.”

 FOLLOW THIS LINK TO THE FILM (12 minutes long)

 

The Quietly Raucous Feijoa Festival 2018

It comes but once a year, with small green fruit and a passion for neighbourhood.  The Guild of the Feijoa, formed in August 2015, with the planting of the neighbourhood’s only feijoa forest at the bottom of Constitution Hill, holds an annual feijoa festival.

Local historian Edward Bennett gave us an insight into the history of elephants of the immediate neighbourhood and beyond.  With ever increasing local celebrity status, Tom the elephant from Sri Lanka, gifted by a royal to the city, once lived in Albert Park – well the remnants of Albert Barracks when the perimeter wall was still in existence - and played a working role in city infrastructure development.

Segway from Tom, to the making of elephants from feijoa – with the winning entry from a trio of apartment – dwelling neighbours who will share the joys of the Guild of the Feijoa Celebratory Jug until 2019.

Closing out the evening was a film made by with and by locals, expressing their love for the neighbourhood (see the separate splog - “Our Neighbourhood”)

Much thanks to hosts TABAC, the perfect intimate bar tucked away in the heart of the city.  To Active Building Management for assisting in promotion in apartments.

“This was a whole lotta neighbourly fun, as well as being educational and ever-so-slightly crazy! Check out the feijoa elephant competition.” City Centre Residents Group facebook post the next morning.

Open to all who identify as being of the city centre neighbourhood - a highlight of the social calendar.  See you there next year!

Splicing with balancing elephants, wriggly worms, children and parents

Conversations with Plunket, the Auckland City Library and Sandy Ritchie (Splice) identified an ongoing need for building community for parents and children living in the city.

 So new chaplain at large, Jill Kayser, leaped at this opportunity to connect with children and families by planning Auckland City Centre’s first nature playgroup.  

The planning and preparation for and delivery of City Explorers Nature Playgroup is supported by Katee Waetford, Housing First’s Early Childhood Centre Manager.

Each Tuesday morning Jill, early childhood teacher Angela Cottrell and volunteer Michelle Twiggins off with mums and babes/toddlers to Albert Park to play, sing and explore in this beautiful natural playground.

City Explorers nature playgroup promotes the importance of children playing, exploring and learning in a natural environment. It creates opportunities for city kids to do what children have done for centuries – play with nature, climb trees, splash in puddles and make friends across age and culture. 

Up to 50 mums (and an occasional dad), babes and toddlers join the exploration of this beautiful natural playground.  The massive roots of majestic Moreton Bay Fig trees make perfect tightropes for the balancing elephant song or rowing boats and even become imaginary backs of dinosaurs.  The hollows in the trunks are dens for hiding in.  And then there’s the “forest” floor full of treasures like autumn leaves, seeds, worms and more.

And this nature playgroup creates opportunities for parents (and children) of all cultures, languages and faith to interact, make new friends and support each other in their vital task of parenting.

 

Neighbourhood Basil

Splice issued a challenge to all staff this Neighbours Day (2018) to connect with their neighbours and send in their stories and photos.

Basil meets the neighbours

Splice Sandy Ritchie rose to the challenge in way that truly reflects her title of Splice “Community Connector”:   

Sandy shares: “My basil crop this year was far beyond anything I (alone) could manage.   I really love pesto but there’s a limit to how much I want to make! I couldn’t see all that basil go to waste so what better way to meet the neighbours than to knock on their door with a supermarket bag full of basil! 

So off I went, armed with two large bags of fresh, organic basil (no doubt about this - note the occasional holey leaf) to meet the two targeted neighbours.

No offence to the neighbourhood, but Dedwood Terrace has never seemed a very ‘neighbourly’ street - everyone pretty much keeps to themselves.

So I was surprised and delighted when neighbour “No 1”, thrilled with my offerings, told me about her daughter’s love of pesto, and her ‘thermomix’ that can make pesto in minutes. She invited me to use it any time. I was even more delighted when she appeared at my door within half an hour with a jar of delicious home-made pesto!

Neighbour “No 2”, invited me in for wine and sent me home with a jar of home-made kasundi!  Who said Dedwood Terrace isn’t neighbourly!

Housing first gets creative with our neighbours

Elizabeth Elliot (special projects) got chatting to some Housing First tenants from Grey’s Ave flats in Merge café one morning.  “They were feeling a bit negative about moving into Greys Ave because of historic problems. We asked what could make it better to live there and one of the things they suggested was creating a welcoming mural,” says Liz.

Dreaming and scheming sessions in Merge Café, door knocking at Greys Ave apartments and flyers inviting tenants to a paint and pizza party on Friday 23 March had occurred.  So armed with loads of test pots and brushes thanks to the generosity of Resene, food, drink and more, Liz set off for Greys Ave.  She was joined by Chaplain at large Jill and her dog Dusty, Julia (Merge), Hono (Housing First/Merge).  And slowly, as the creation emerged, others were persuaded to add their bit of love and creativity to the mural. 

Beer and Boeries with the Neighbours

And Jill Kayser, Splice Chaplain at Large hosted a “beer and boeries” picnic with her husband Paul and Boxer dog Dusty with their new neighbours in Eden Terrace.

Splice Tuesdays update

2018 is off to a great start with

Splice Tuesdays at the Ellen Melville Centre

Neighbourhood is about people connecting. Seeing so many people getting together, enjoying friendship and sharing interests is a heart-warming start to the year.

Why not be part of it? Head over to www.splice.org.nz/splice-tuesdays for our latest brochure about the Splice Tuesdays Programme or drop by the Ellen Melville Centre to say hello anytime from 9.30 onward every Tuesday.

Walking Group

We’re still trying to get this one off the ground (or on the ground??)
If you’re interested in meeting people for a friendly walk, contact sandy@splice.org.nz to talk about suitable times.

Currently meeting outside the Ellen Melville Centre, 9.30am on Tuesdays.

Tea, Talk and Culture Share

Language, laughter, food and fun – sharing cultures is great for everyone. Non-English speakers get to practice English, and we all learn from each other. All ethnicities welcome and ‘Kiwi-ness’ is in demand, so come on Kiwi neighbours, join us! We promise you’ll enjoy and learn from the experience – and if you have any migrant neighbours, bring them along. This is what neighbourhood is all about! Contact sandy@splice.org.nz

10.30 Tuesdays in the lounge.

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Lunchtime talks

Bring your lunch and hear engaging speakers on fascinating topics – brain/computer interfacing systems, women’s empowerment, art …

In the lounge, every Tuesday at 12.30pm

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Creative Writing

Where writer’s block meets explosive inspiration. Join fellow writers and inspire each other.

In the lounge, Tuesdays 1.30pm

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After work yoga

This newly formed group proved very popular from its very first session.It’s a great way to finish the work day and go home feeling chilled out. Contact Yulia; namaste@yuliayoga.com    

Upstairs at the Ellen Melville Centre. 6pm Tuesdays

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Social Justice Hour

The opportunity to ‘chew the fat’ on a range of social justice issues.

First Tuesday of every month in the lounge 6pm.

City Centre Neighbourhood History

Discover the fascinating history around everything from street names to volcanoes, tunnels, fashion, buildings (and so much more) in our neighbourhood,.

Second Tuesday of every month in the lounge 6pm.

Tuesday Book Club

Our first meet-up saw a keen and committed group of readers get off to a great start, both socially and with focus on reading! Early feedback suggests that everyone is enjoying the first read - ‘The 10p.m. Question’ by NZ author Kate De Goldie. We’re looking forward to discussing it at February’s group and choosing our book for next month. Come join us!

Contact Sandy sandy@splice.org.nz

6pm in the lounge, third Tuesday of each month.

Splice Bottling Co-op

Bring a jar and join Splice’s master ‘bottler’ to make and take home pickles and jams, using the season’s plentiful produce.

Fourth Tuesday every month at 5.30pm

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Find something that interests you or come along with your own ideas and see if we can help you to make it happen!

 

Life is not a spectator sport

A SPLOG by Peter Matheson

In the  Spring of  1989  I was in   Halle, in  Communist  East  Germany,  for  a  history  conference. Although the natives were obviously restless   none of us there had a clue  that  the balloon was  about  to go up,  the  Berlin Wall to  disintegrate,  the  face  of  Eastern  Europe  to be  forever changed. Secret police control, army loyalty, party hegemony seemed unshakeable. One lives through life-changing  events but  is  seldom  aware of  them ahead of time.

Could  it  be  that  our  recent  elections signify a sea-change of similar magnitude,   that  they  are  much more than the usual  three year  political roundabout, more  than a  generational  shift?  Could it be that  the neo-liberal apple-cart  is  being upturned, and  that  the  common good  can  again figure  as  a political imperative?  Certainly the  sense of empowerment  during the election was  palpable,  the flow of energy  for  fundamental  and  redemptive  change.  A new  Prime Minister   actually spoke  about  kindness as a  prerequisite.  Capitalism’s need of serious revision apparently  made  the  case for  the  coalition  .

The  elections, of course, could have  gone  either way. We  won’t  forget  in a  hurry  the anxious wait  for Winston’s Delphic  utterances.  But  what  of the future?  Here in  Dunedin  Claire  Curran’s  sleep-out  in the  Octagon  had  already signalized  something new in the  air. When  we arrived  an  hour  and  a half  early for  Jacinda Ardern’s  Hunter Square  address we  barely  got  a seat.  The  atmosphere  was electric;  her brief talk electrifying. The same  at  the Univ  campus.  There is  a new  spirit in  the  air. David Clark amassed unheard of  support, a whole army of  enthusiastic  door-knockers.   For once cynicism and  resignation have been  at a  discount, grass-roots democracy vibrant, agency has been recovered.

There  had been, however,  as  much despair  around  as  hope. Professor  Jonathan Boston’s  critique  of political short-termism had long gone unheard.   Not  least in  respect  to the  environment. Teachers, social workers, nurses, psychiatrists  were often exhausted and short-staffed, weary of being fobbed off  with empty promises about social investment.   The  cheapening  of  social  discourse  seemed unstoppable as ‘alternative  truths’  piled up in the election campaign. Metiria  Turei,  a  figure of integrity  if ever there was one,  was  stopped in her  tracks  by a mixture of  selective moralization and media  assassination. This  was not  only a calamity for  the  Greens.  It  highlighted the  extent  to which we have become  two nations, the  prosperous  one blandly unaware  of  the  pressures on the other. Behind  all this lurked  the  convenient  myth of  the market, which would  eventually regulate  everything.

This  despair, however, has  become the  tinder for the  activism.  We are beginning to realise  that we  are living  through apocalyptic  times, nowhere  seen more  clearly than in  the  renewed spectre of nuclear war, the  self-mirroring lunacies of  Isis and  Trump. A succession of  weather calamities  is  at  last awakening  people  to the  “lethal realities” of climate  change, though,  as the London performance poet, Kate Tempest puts  it, “It’s  safer just  to see what we can bear”? 

“Business as  usual” is  a  mantra which no longer convinces. We know we have  to change. The  first  hundred  days of  the  new government  have begun with some élan, and  the silly obstructionism by the  National opposition which is already in evidence will  not go down  well.  Yet  the  challenges  ahead are formidable.  If, indeed, we  are on the cusp  of  a  more humane era the  resistance of  those  who  have profited  from  the previous dispensation  can be imagined. We cannot  leave it  all to the new  government.  We  will all have to put our shoulders  to  the  wheel. Life is  not a spectator  sport.

Chinese Dumplings - a recipe for connection

-        Take a group of patrons at Merge Cafe.

-        Add a small group of senior Chinese women (who don’t speak English) and a large dollop of goodwill.

-        Chop, knead and shape together to produce perfect dumpling dough, laughter and friendship.   

-        When preparation is complete, cook and enjoy food together.

-        Exchange beautiful cultural songs to show appreciation, goodwill and friendship.

This was the recipe that connected unlikely neighbours from Merge Café and the Chinese community when a group of senior Chinese Splicers taught homeless /recently housed patrons at Merge Café how to make traditional Chinese dumplings. The result was delicious food along with newly blended trust and understanding.

Courage is required every time a senior migrant steps out into our community, even when the community is reasonably familiar. Stepping out to teach (in a foreign language) a section of the community that is totally unfamiliar, requires even more courage.

This message from a member of the Chinese group says it all; ‘Made the two cultures together. We were all happy this afternoon.’

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KINDNESS - the power to transform communities

Kindness, the incredibly positive value we all understand and have experience of, was once again ramped up on the streets of the city centre neighbourhood for Random Acts of Kindness Day 2017.

Combine, two teams armed with 5000 “Little Pots of Kindness" filled with the sweetest of bush honey and “kindness cards” encouraging both the consideration of kindness and a call to action, with 19 neighbourhood "Cafes of Kindness" handing out free coffees and you have a sweeping wave of kindness through the city centre neighbourhood.

Along with all the surprise, the hugs, smiles and appreciation, what better way to describe what happened than some of examples of the impact a small act of kindness can have on each other in a community:

“This is wonderful – it’s just made our day even better” - An older couple going for a wedding anniversary lunch

One lady came up to me after “S” gave her a pot of honey and she started crying – she said that she needed this today, she’s been going through a lot of hardship lately.  

“This is amazing. I’ll go in to work with a big smile on my face today” 

Walking up Queen Street to work this morning feeling a bit jaded after a broken night's sleep and with a sore throat, the offer of a small jar of honey was so unexpected and gratefully received. A few spoonfuls throughout the day made all the difference. Thank you Splice 😊😊 

“Received this (photo of a honey pot) on the way to work. It touches me to see this is happening.” 

“After receiving your free pot of honey I was generally pleased as I arrived at work. I am a debt collector and I have the autonomy to make people's lives much harder or much easier, depending on the level of commitment they make to resolving their situation.  A person called me this morning to settle a significant debt they had really battled to raise money for. They had mentioned they had not been overseas for many years due to their debts and that this was their last debt. Let's just say they have some extra cash in their pocket now, can take that overseas trip and will not be worrying about that debt ever again. Let’s put it all down to a small pot of honey.” 

You can read the full list of feedback here

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A special Splice thank you must go to the following people and organisations, who make the spreading of kindness possible: 

Kindness Splicers – the residents, students, workers and others, who generously were able to find the time to put normal life aside for a morning and pluck up the courage to hit the streets to give kindness to others on a Friday morning.

Hikutaia Honey – Barbara and Allan for their honey and the warmth of their hospitality, as the team knuckled down to manually fill the “Little Pots of Kindness” that create the magic that touches the hearts of those who receive them.

Methodist Mission Northern and Aotea St James without whom the work of Splice in connecting the threads of community would not be possible.

Activate Auckland Council – for their contribution to the funding of the action and understanding, that a city that invites kindness, is a place we all want to live, work, study and play in.

Cospak and Mainfreight – Cospak who gave us a great deal on the jars and lids and Mainfreight who readily came to the party in delivering them from Auckland to Opotiki.  Kindness from business in support of community engagement and enhancement is always welcome from an NGO who can’t always stretch to cover all avenues.

Active Building Management and Network Media – communication within the city centre can be tricky without a swanky marketing budget.  Our thanks to these two and others for getting the message into a good number apartments and in front of people on the Red Bus that circulates the neighbourhood.

Kindness Cafes - it is heartening to engage with so many neighbourhood cafes, who see themselves as active participants in their community and leapt at the chance to be part of the day.

Finally to Everyone who engaged in Random Acts of Kindness, acts big and small, on this day and beyond – keep up the good work and - practice makes perfect.

Active Citizens - Coming Soon to Auckland

Earlier in the year, the Splice team had a couple of meetings about how we could continue to raise up the people in our community. Gareth had heard about a program called Active Citizens, and set to work to see if it could be the toolkit we needed.

Active Citizens is a social leadership program developed by British Council UK. It promotes intercultural dialogue and sustainable development. Active Citizens has been incredibly successful in over 46 countries launching almost 8000 social action projects and creating over 210,000 global citizens. 

So after a taster workshop in April, John (our Chaplain at Large) told me and five other Splicers that we were going to Fiji to see how we could bring Active Citizens back home. I was ecstatic.

Then John told me we were sleeping eight to a room, with cold showers and no internet! I was slightly less ecstatic. Nevertheless, 2 months later I stepped onto a plane at 2am, armed with a lot of Vodafone roaming data, dry shampoo and ear plugs.

SIDENOTE: We actually forgot to take a Splice team photo together. This is the superwoman half the team. Barbara Manarangi, Tara Solomon, Serena Solomon, Maddy O’Dwyer.

SIDENOTE: We actually forgot to take a Splice team photo together. This is the superwoman half the team. Barbara Manarangi, Tara Solomon, Serena Solomon, Maddy O’Dwyer.

Over the week in Fiji, the Active Citizens course was very engaging, exploring concepts through movement, games and open conferencing. The master-facilitators (Professional World-Changers in my opinion) delivered the content in a way that encouraged us to unpack concepts instead of reducing them down into academic one-liners.

Our Amazing Facilitators: Charo, Karen, Michael, Apolonia.

Our Amazing Facilitators: Charo, Karen, Michael, Apolonia.

I realised how easy the course made it to be open minded, to listen to hear instead of listening to reply - we weren’t looking for one right answer, so we didn't have to agree or disagree on anything. I discovered a really beautiful space in conversation where the ideas got bigger and bigger while the barriers disappeared. 

When we practiced facilitating, I found myself enjoying creating conversations between others even though I am naturally quite outspoken, and once would have been quite happy to tell everyone how I was saw things.

My biggest revelation was learning something I thought I already knew how to do. I learnt the difference between being tolerant of someone different to you, and being authentic with someone different to you. I realised that even when we hold different beliefs around life, God, LGBT+ communities and all those other things that can seem so important, our inter-connectedness is always precious and always worth investing in.

Ravuni, Frank, Ana, Sai and Sevu

Ravuni, Frank, Ana, Sai and Sevu

On Wednesday, we went to Cautata village to visit a group of woman selling crafts to build infrastructure in their little community. We sat in a beautiful bright blue hall they had raised the money for and there was a formal Kava Ceremony. When I talked to the village woman they told me how they loved village life but also how small it was. One woman told me of how she sold mats for over a year to buy a boat for her husband to start a little fishing business. The village was so hospitable providing an array of afternoon treats and Tara sought out fresh coconuts, we watched a young man wield a machete expertly to open them. One of the ladies offered me a puppy with big green eyes for just $50 FJD, I had to work very, very hard to say no. Then the Fijians began to sing songs of the different provinces, and we danced.

The sign outside the Caucata Woman's Kitchen & Hall

The sign outside the Caucata Woman's Kitchen & Hall

The night before we left was Cultural Night and I have to describe the quality of dancing for you (not something I could personally contribute to). David from Columbia had snake hips and could get almost anyone on their feet & on beat (again, not me); ALL the Fijian’s moved like water; Peruvian Charo made it look effortless, and Ingrid belonged in a ballroom. But the biggest stars of course were Tara and Serena with ‘if you’re an Active Citizen and you know it, clap your hands.’

I tried to convince the kiwi's to do a rendition of Fred Dag's 'if it weren't for my gumboots, where would I be?' or Split Endz - 'Six Months in a Leaky Boat' to no avail. Wayne sung Hallelujah and we all melted into the night (the Kava might have helped).

Iavil,  Gareth , David,  Frank , Sai &  Wayne  performing on Cultural night. This is the only photo with all the  Splice boys  in it!

Iavil, Gareth, David, Frank, Sai & Wayne performing on Cultural night. This is the only photo with all the Splice boys in it!

Having done the course now, I think I could expand on the official description of Active Citizens. It’s about giving anyone and everyone the skills to participate meaningfully in their communities, to splice together different kinds and take charge of making a difference.

The Splice team haven’t hashed out the details of our plans for Active Citizens yet but very soon we will begin making the course available to the city centre communities, and then… well, those plans are still top secret. (My personal goal is to create an army of community superheroes!)

The AC team and the Caucata Villagers: Superheroes united!

The AC team and the Caucata Villagers: Superheroes united!

At one point we learnt about a southern African bantu word – Ubuntu. It describes identity in terms of an individual’s relationship with others and is sometimes explained as:

“I am because you are, because we are.’

That’s what I’ll be remembering while I continue to practice my new Active Citizens skills.

That and my one run-in with a fruit bat.

Click the right side to scroll through photos.

 

Thanks to Splice, Waitemata Local Board and all our Splicer's for this wonderful opportunity!
Maddy

 

If you’d like more information about the Active Citizens program, visit https://www.britishcouncil.org/active-citizens or email maddy@splice.org.nz .

 

 

Sharing Food and Telling Stories

Throughout history story sharing has been a process whereby connections were made and trust was built both between individuals and within communities. Exchanges often took place while trading with a pedlar, participating in shared work or while preparing or sharing food.

Today, story sharing continues to provide a means to ‘know’ others, to recognise ourselves in them, and to understand our differences through sharing experiences; but in this fast-paced world, how often do we take the time to share our stories and really listen to others?

In order to do our work of connecting and building community in our city centre, Splice needs to hear people’s experiences of living in the city centre.

In any community, it’s impossible to ‘assume’ what people want or need.  Add in the huge diversity of cultures and languages in Auckland city centre, and it’s even more complex.

Splice recently gathered together a group of Auckland city centre Chinese residents, many with little or no English, to enjoy shared food and tell their stories about arriving and living in New Zealand. With the help of a wonderful group of volunteer interpreters information was recorded and will be used to plan,  with members of the Chinese community, what ‘we’ and ‘they’ can do together to make the city centre a neighbourhood where they feel at home.

Story sharing can, without a doubt,  capture people’s hopes, dreams, and vision and provide the collective power to turn ‘ME’ into ‘WE’ in terms of building community.

The Enjoyable Business of Splicing with Business

The Auckland city centre neighbourhood is a resource rich environment, abundant with the skills and willingness of a raft of locals, e.g. the Auckland University students with whom Splice collaborate around public spaces every year, the bi-lingual residents who help us cross the language barrier in the absence of the team’s ability with Mandarin…the list goes on.

It is also the businesses of the neighbourhood, both local and further afield, who are willing to pitch in and play their part in building a community of courage and compassion. 

Splice’s contribution to fundraising for the Lifewise Big Sleepout 2017, was an approach to local restaurants asking “Can You Spare a Meal” to be auctioned over Trade Me.  A “splicing” and all-of-community approach, where the generosity and willingness of the business community and the compassionate desire (and tastebuds) of the general community, were brought together in order to raise funds to effect change in the lives of another sector of the community, our neighbours without homes.

On 1 September Splice will be going back to the street for Random Acts of Kindness Day – raising the profile of kindness, as a key element to building positive communities we value and love. The project has the support of Hikutaia Honey, a hefty discount on 5000 jars and lids (Cospak Ltd) and an offer to transport the empty jars in Auckland, to meet the honey in Opotiki (Mainfreight).  Businesses one and all, who have a genuine willingness to widen their perspective beyond their own bottom lines, to support the prospect of something bigger and in this particular instance kinder, for everyone.

So a special thank you from Splice, to all of the businesses who splice with us and in particular for those who supported the “Can You Spare a Meal” campaign and for those in support in the build up to Random Acts of Kindness Day. 

Here they are: 

"Can You Spare a Meal" - The Caker, Madame George, The Lantern Alley, Saigon, Citizen Q, Carmen Jones, Gemmayze Street, The Hipgroup, Marvell Grill, Café Hanoi, Monsoon Poon, Heart of the City, Britomart Group, Trade Me.

Random Acts of Kindness Day - Hikutaia Honey, Cospak, Mainfreight, Active Building Management.

“Individually we are one drop but together we are an ocean” - Ryunosuke Satoro

Neighbours, Feijoa ZeppElin & Heritage Conveniences doth a small green fruit festival make

As the month of May drew to a close Splice in partnership with the Guild of the Feijoa (est. 2015) climbed the spiral staircase to TABAC for the annual festival of celebration of the tasty green fruit and community connection – “A Most Unanticipated Feijoa Festival”.

Come one, come all of the neighbourhood and they did – residents, workers, reps from: CCRG (resident’s group), Downtown Dogs, Chessmates, the Waitemata Local Board, splicing students from Auckland Uni, Tai Chi’ers, the Civic Trust, ACPC etc – new apartment neighbours lured in as they happened to pass by (and then stayed the whole night) even visitors from the Caribbean.

Understanding local history is often a cornerstone to building a collective sense of belonging to a place.  So it was with this year’s festival speaker Hannah Alleyne and her aptly named presentation “A wee story about Auckland city’s heritage toilets”, the type of social history too often hidden away in the water closet.  As an early example of inequitous user-pays (and as designated by male burghers of the city council) while Women’s “restrooms” once required the spending of a penny, Men’s “toilets” operated free of charge.

With The Guild of the Feijoa, Celebratory Jug once again up for grabs, local judge Chris van Ryn of Freestyle Photography www.freestylephotography.co.nz – a man who knows more than a thing or two about photographic composition, had the tricky task of adjudicating the winners of this year’s competition “The Neighbourhood Feijoa - a photographic study of small green fruit in their neighbourhood". 

From the individual shots, to the plethora of photos from local groups, winners were sought - including the supreme winner, local resident Julie’s stunning montage of feijoa zeppelin.  Absolutely no photoshop involved in this creation, though there were apparently some questions being asked around Devonport about a hybrid-pohutukawa bearing green fruit.

Good fun, plenty of conversation and connection - great neighbourhood.

The Language of Shared Food and Culture

Ni Hao – a Kiwi Christmas Dinner!

Language need not be a barrier to sitting down and eating together and so it was just prior to Christmas last year at the Auckland Chinese Presbyterian Church Hall in Vincent St, when Chinese from local apartments were invited to come “splice” over a traditional Kiwi Christmas dinner.

The evening festivities had it all - Santa in traditional red suit with presents, a surprise visit by the Auckland Street Choir, turkeys, gravy and a liberal distribution of pavlova.

With the invaluable help of some bi-lingual splicers, traversing the language divide was a lot of fun, as connections and understanding revealed themselves across the evening.

The city centre neighbourhood is incredibly culturally diverse.  By the official numbers Chinese make up a significant proportion of the residential community.  There is now a local Chinese WeChat group – WeChat being a well-used social media platform by Chinese.  Go to “AKL City Centre Neighborhood” if you can read Chinese and want to meet new neighbours and stay informed.

Regardless of your cultural heritage, if you are someone who believes that being welcoming and building connections between people is both interesting and important then feel free to get in touch or keep an eye on the Splice Facebook page.

In the forthcoming Year of the Rooster - 2017, Splice will be looking to facilitate further opportunities and you’re welcome to join in the fun.

Xie xie.

 

 

Heartful Art

As a celebration and culmination of the Jean Marc Calvet Tour of 2017, Aucklanders got the chance to leave a mark of hope on the city centre. Splice teamed up with Auckland Libraries, the Fringe Festival and Resene to arm the public with paint, brushes and an empty wall outside the Central Library.

As with the rest of the tour, the theme was suicide prevention and artful healing. The wall was filled with messages of hope and declarations of love (in many different languages), self-portraits, a mural of our Chaplain at Large, and a beautiful Jean Marc Calvet mural in the centre of it all.

The event was a great example of community, compassion and courage. Those who claimed they couldn’t paint spent hours engulfed in the art-scape, kids painted with strangers, and streeties alongside professionals in nice dresses or suits and ties. The community artwork will remain up until the street art is painted over or fades, a nod to the transience of the city.

 

Thanks to Wayne Hapi for performing, and Resene for the paint sponsorship.