When I told my friends I was leaving my long - time home in Mt Maunganui to work in Auckland they looked at me as if I was mad.
‘Why on earth would you do that?’ they asked.
So I told them I was going because I had a job I believed would be stimulating, challenging and rewarding. That got them interested.
‘What is your job?’ was the obvious next question.
I said it involved building ‘community’ in Auckland’s central city area, home to a huge cross section of people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, and that I’d be working with an organisation called Splice. They looked at me blankly as I attempted to explain Splice and the work they do.
Now, two weeks into the job I can be much more convincing. I can tell my friends that I work with a passionate and committed group of people and what wonderful work Splice does connecting people in the central city. I can tell them that, through activity groups, events and conversations, Splice is connecting people. They are connecting people who may otherwise be isolated and lonely, and linking with people and organisations who want to support the building of a central city community where all people can feel they ‘belong.’
Having lived alone in a huge Asian city, unable to speak the language, I can relate to feeling isolated. I recall being unable to ask simple things like ‘which way, which bus?’ or how to do more ‘complex’ things - like finding a dentist.
Even when I had learned enough language to ask simple questions I usually couldn’t understand the responses! At first I felt like a five-year-old child – lost! But I also recall how I felt the first time someone recognised me in the supermarket and greeted me. It dawned on me that I was part of ‘this place.’
With more than two hundred ethnicities in Auckland it is now reportedly more diverse than London. Many of these people live in the central city and no doubt many of them, especially new migrants, feel just as ‘lost’ as I felt.
The city centre is also home to a diverse population of Kiwis, some living in luxury apartments, others struggling to make ends meet and those who don’t manage to make ends meet for a variety of reasons, and live on the streets. We each have a story that led us to where we are now and we all have much to contribute to making this city ‘our place.’
In just two weeks I have met people from different walks of life, different ethnicities, and with different beliefs. I have talked with community groups and organisations.
Splice is about finding ways to bring these people together.
I am on a steep learning curve about both the city and its people and there will always be more to learn, but already I am viewing the city centre of Auckland through totally new eyes.
Splice’s vision, ‘to nourish courage, compassion and community in Auckland City Centre’ is without doubt a challenge. While it may not happen overnight, the movement IS already happening and I am excited to be part of it.
Just as many strands spliced together make a rope, people coming together with purpose make a community.
When I pass this ‘update’ on to my friends in Mt Maunganui I’m sure they’ll be convinced, as I am, that I made the right move.
- Sandy Ritchie, Community Development Worker for Auckland City Centre