Together We Are Avondale: May ’17

Feed the Streets

After securing funding, media coverage and asking for volunteers in April, we invited those interested in donating their time to 2 information sessions in May. This was an opportunity for us to meet our volunteers and give them a rundown of Feed the Streets: its background, where things were at and what the plan was going forward. We had about 15 people across the 2 meetings and several more that couldn’t attend, but have committed to the project going forward.

From the info sessions, we identified 3 people that we thought would be ideal to form a committee that could steer FTS going forward. Together with Leilani, these 3 – Steph, Melissa and Bryony – have now formed what’s called the “Kaitiaki” (guardians) of FTS. Later, Constable Tony Tatupu accepted our invitation to join the Kaitiaki as well. At the time of writing, we now have a committee of 5 local people that each bring unique skills, knowledge and networks that will help manage and guide FTS as it evolves over time.

In addition to the Kaitiaki, a private Facebook group was created to act as an information hub for our FTS volunteers (request to join here). While the Kaitiaki will primarily communicate via email/phone, our main method of contacting volunteers will be through the group after we established people checked Facebook more regularly than their emails. It’s also a better medium to host group conversations.

Finally in May, we also locked in dates for a FTS trial run and our eventual launch. The trial will be held Friday 9th/Saturday 10th June, before the real deal is up and running Friday 7th/Saturday 8th July, and then those same days every fortnight for the next year. On that note, massive thanks to Jess who helped us book the space we need at the Avondale Community Centre until 2018.

Easter Egg Hunt

Early in the month, we helped Shalema from Community Waitakere run an Easter Egg Hunt and other games for the kids of the Housing NZ complex on Racecourse Pde. After running similar events ourselves for Neighbour’s Day in March/April it was interesting to be part of someone else’s event and see how they do things. I was really impressed with all the games Shalema had to offer and the way she took charge of the kids who were so excited it was like herding cats at times haha. It was also noticeable how close many of the kids seemed with each other; it really felt like a community within a community at the complex. Thanks to Shalema and her family for entertaining some of our local people, and for inviting us along, and shoutout all the people we met on the day.

Workshops

I attended the Whau Local Board Climathon – a workshop about sustainable community development jointly run by AECOM and Auckland Council. The workshop began with an introduction into the current state of the global climate, the consequences of doing too little and some existing initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions, which was all really insightful. Then for most of the remainder of the session we looked in more detail at opportunities for sustainable projects in the Whau around themes like the built environment, waste/energy and transport. Some of the ideas the attendees came up with were bike rental and repair centres; rooftop gardens in town centres; solar lighting in public areas; co-working office spaces; and a rent-a-kayak service for the Whau River.

Also in May, Leilani went to an event health and safety workshop led by Cathy Knowsley of HiViz Event Management. Leilani said it was really beneficial to look at health and safety ideas and how they can be applied to our FTS initiative.

Whau Youth Awards

The awards were aimed at young people (16-24) that work, live or play in the Whau who have achieved something worthy of recognition – not just those doing well in sports or academics, but also those who had positively contributed to their communities or overcome difficulties in their lives. As part of the Whau Youth Providers Network our association with the event was mainly helping with some of the decision-making behind the scenes and pitching in on the day itself setting up tables, cutting onions etc. I wasn’t there for the awards, but the sis Leilani picked up an award in memory of Vei who I hear was a really important figure in Avondale through his work with Youthtown in particular. Massive congrats to Lays and her fellow award-winners, and to everyone from the network that made the event happen especially master event organiser Deahne.

TWAA-NPT collaboration

Just before the month ended we had a brief and informal meeting with Tony from the Neighbourhood Policing Team about potential opportunities for us to work together in 2 areas:

  • The homeless/vulnerable – potentially merging FTS with ACES and a wider programme in Avondale supporting our people with food, shelter, clothing etc.
  • Activating the old 3 Guys site – the police are now guardians of the space and want to explore ways of making better use of the site

There’s still a lot more groundwork to be done on both of these opportunities and I’ll post about them as more comes to light.

Together We Are Avondale: April ’17

Read on to get a glimpse of just some of what we got up to in April, our 3rd month running the Together we are Avondale project.

Neighbour’s Day – Bellgrove Pl

Following on from our first Neighbour’s Day event on Taramea St late-March, we held a similar one on Bellgrove with many of the same groups pitching in to help. The NPT played games on the street with a few locals; TYLA took care of the BBQ and brought food parcels; ACA chipped in with some of the food and entertainment gear we needed; Krisania and Carol from The Village Trust brought donated bread buns; and the rest of our food was purchased with Pak’nSave vouchers from Community Waitakere.

The vibe of this event began quite differently from Taramea because only a few days earlier the police executed early morning drug raids on some tinnie houses on Bellgrove. Instead of immediate excitement and kids running around, people were (understandably) reluctant to come out at first. But once the BBQ was up and running, and the NPT went door-knocking to explain to residents they were only there to support a community event, people steadily came out. Throughout the evening we had 30-50 people come and enjoy some food, face painting, games, music and a chat which was a great result.

The most notable piece of feedback I heard came from a mum that had lived on Bellgrove for 6 months. She had no idea so many kids lived there until our BBQ, adding she hardly ever saw any at the playground suspecting many families don’t feel it’s safe enough. In light of that and the drug raids – which her kids saw – she was really grateful for us providing a family-friendly evening for residents of her street.

As we found on Taramea, a few people commented that it’d be great to have these events more often. In future we’d love to support similar events that are led by the residents themselves in the hope that we can strengthen ties between neighbours and in the process help people feel happier and safer in their communities. For more photos, check out our Facebook post here.

Feed the Streets

In April, we began to launch our first in-house initiative – Feed the Streets (FTS). It was a busy month that saw us secure $1,000 in funding from Kai Whau, an article in the Western Leader and on Stuff, and 15+ volunteers put their hand up in response to an I Love Avondale post on the project.

Conceptualisation of FTS started in February after we’d identified that we had surplus rescued food available through our networks and that there was an obvious need among our hungry ‘streeties’ (street people). Speaking with several streeties it was clear that while they were interested in a free meal, several also welcomed the idea of being involved in the cooking and food prep process themselves too.

With this in mind, we settled on the idea that FTS would initially be a weekly or fortnightly meal prepared by keen members of our community in collaboration with our streeties to feed the people in Avondale sleeping rough or on the street asking for change. In time, we also intend to have relevant support services come through to offer assistance to any of the streeties if they need it.

Longer term, our goal is to open our Feed the Streets meal to the wider community to encourage people from all walks of life to come eat and speak together in a friendly and welcoming environment. We’re also hopeful that this community meal will become a unique opportunity to learn about the needs and ambitions of our people, which is especially important given many residents’ low engagement with more conventional means like community meetings, online forums and surveys.

Leading in Communities Workshops

Leilani and myself started an 8-week leadership course run by Community Waitakere’s Jenny Tanner who we’d met previously at a separate workshop in February. At the time of writing we are halfway through the course and despite not being able to attend every session we’ve already implemented some of what we’ve learnt in our daily practice. Personally, I’ve found Denise Bijoux of Inspiring Communities’ talk on leadership particularly useful, especially the idea of asking “powerful questions” that provoke thought and reflection on any actions being undertaken, and identifying which leadership styles suit which situations the best.

Anzac Day Service

Avondale RSA member Ruth Wrathall frequently reaches out to I Love Avondale to promote various events, including the organisation’s annual Anzac Day Service and parade. I missed the parade’s walk from the RSA down to Memorial Park opposite The Hollywood, but did catch the service which featured speeches from the head boy and girl of Avondale College among others, and the return march. The Nafanua Brass Band in particular were awesome to see (and hear). For more photos, check out our Facebook post here.

 

Together We Are Avondale: March ’17

March represented our second full month leading the Together We Are Avondale (TWAA) project. The highlight was running our first event, a Neighbour’s Day BBQ on Taramea St supported by several other community groups active in our area. Read on for more details about the BBQ as well as a bit of what else we’ve been up to the past month.

Neighbour’s Day – Taramea St

One of the first ideas for TWAA was to collaborate with the Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) on delivering a community BBQ for Neighbour’s Day. The police identified Taramea St and Bellgrove Pl as two places that would benefit the most from a safe and family friendly night as they’ve both had a few problems recently. Leilani coordinated both events and successfully managed to pull together a great team to support the March 30th BBQ on Taramea – TYLA, ACA, the NPT, Sport Waitakere, Community Waitakere, Whau Youth Board and The Village Trust all contributed in important ways.

About 60-80 people came through on the night, most deliberately and others passing by that saw/heard what was happening and came for a look. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with people appreciative of the free food and entertainment, especially for the kids. A few people I spoke with expressed hope that it would become a regular thing – something I know the NPT is keen on. 

For us, the BBQ was a great chance to introduce ourselves and TWAA, while getting some feedback from locals in the process. Thanks heaps to everyone that came out or helped out. To see more pictures check out our Facebook post here.

ACES

Late-March we went around Avondale town centre picking up litter with a crew of streeties, led by Constable Tony Tatupu of the NPT. The initiative is called Avondale Community Engagement Services (ACES) and it’s been going for over a month now. Every Monday morning, street people are invited to chuck on a high-viz and pick up litter for about 2 hours. In exchange, they get a feed of chop suey thanks to Island Diamond Takeaways on Rosebank Rd and a Pak n Save voucher each.

Talking to the brothers there, a key benefit on top of the food is the feeling of self-worth they get from cleaning up Avondale. Everyone I spoke with was a massive supporter of what Tony’s doing; so much so that Manuel, who recently got off the streets here and into accommodation near K’ Rd, even biked all the way to Avondale that morning just to get involved.

It was also insightful getting a glimpse into some of the guys’ lives. Some are battling addiction and health problems on top of sleeping rough, and finding work is difficult if you have a criminal record or no fixed abode. Besides a roof over their heads, the guys identified food as the next most important need. It’s this kind of feedback that has encouraged TWAA to initiate a programme called Feed the Streets that will not only provide the streeties with food – and eventually the wider community – but also gives them an opportunity to learn valuable skills and connect with relevant services.

Central Reserve

TWAA, ACA, Community Waitakere and Auckland Council have been working behind-the-scenes on a plan to revamp and revitalise the Central Reserve (otherwise known as the old netball courts near the spider). This site has been identified for several reasons: to build on the momentum generated by the new basketball court and bike park before that; it’s on centrally-located public land; council supports its development; and there is already some funding available. TWAA is playing a minor role in the process at this stage, sitting back soaking in the conversations between the other parties involved as they get to grips with what the limitations are before opening it up to public input.

Advisory Group Meeting

Midway through March, we held our first Advisory Group meeting at the Rosebank Peninsula Church (read more here). The purpose of these meetings is for stakeholders in our community to have ongoing input into the direction of Together We Are Avondale and to support us with their own networks and resources. It’s also an opportunity for those in attendance to connect with each other and support other initiatives going on. Since the meeting was held we helped connect Avondale Primary with Pusi Urale who spoke at their recent Pasefika Fono; Cain Tattoo has donated $250 towards the Whau Youth Awards; Marcus from Cain has been in discussion with Sue and Pirrie from the Haven Foundation over a micro enterprise initiative; and Melissa from Encounter Christian Centre has come onboard to help build our Feed the Streets initiative.

TWAA Advisory Group meeting 15/3

At the Rosebank Peninsula Church on Wednesday night, ACA and ourselves hosted the first Advisory Group meeting for the year. The Advisory Group was created late-2016 so that stakeholders in our community could have ongoing input into the direction of Together we are Avondale and to support us with their own networks and resources.

About 20 people came through on the night, covering a diverse range of stakeholders. Among those in attendance were representatives from Encounter Christian Centre, Avondale Baptist Church, TYLA, Avondale Islamic Centre, Avondale Primary School, Plunket, Community Waitakere, The Creative Souls Project, The Green Party, Avondale Lions Club, Department of Internal Affairs, Avondale Library and Cain Tattoo Studio.

Notably, many of the people who came to the very first Advisory Group meeting late last year didn’t come to Wednesday night’s one. It would’ve been great to have some of last year’s attendees – Rosebank School, Avondale Intermediate, Rosebank/Waterview Neighbourhood Policing Team and Rosebank Business Association for example – at this month’s meeting too, but of course people lead busy lives and it’s difficult finding a date and time that suits everyone.

Wednesday’s meeting began with Silvia and Simon from ACA explaining the background of Together we are Avondale and the governance structure around it. Myself and Leilani led the second half of the meeting where we talked about the aims of our project and shared what we’d been up to so far. This was mainly networking, supporting existing groups and their initiatives, and working on our own plans for Neighbour’s Day and a community food service called Feed the Streets (more details to come).

We ended the night by asking everyone to contribute to our project in the following ways:

  1. Do you have any upcoming public events to add to our events calendar?
  2. Do you have any resources or networks that would benefit Feed the Streets?
  3. Would your business/organisation be interested in sponsoring a Whau Youth Award?

The response and contribution from many of the people at the meeting was really encouraging, and the networking we were able to do has opened up some new relationships and opportunities for us going forward. In one conversation I had someone observed that there’s usually too much focus on entertaining people rather than initiatives that have long-term benefits like teaching budgeting skills, upskilling, self-employment opportunities etc. That’s something we really want to tackle. What was also pleasing was many of the attendees spoke amongst each other as well and I saw a few business cards being exchanged. This helped reinforce to me that these meetings are not only about Together we are Avondale, but a chance to meet and connect with others in our neighbourhood. Mean!

These Network Group meetings will happen several times a year and are open to anyone from the community, including ordinary residents. If you’d like to attend the next one please register by commenting on this post or emailing Silvia Spieksma at: avondalecommunityaction@gmail.com

Photo: Jody McMillan, Whau the People

Together We Are Avondale: February ’17

Myself (Dayne) and Leilani were employed late last year as Community Development Workers to lead the Together we are Avondale project (read more about it here). We started on the job in February and our first month was mainly full of planning meetings and introducing ourselves to local stakeholders. In what will be the first of many posts about our project, here is a rundown of some of what we got up to in February:

Huffing Walk

Up to 10 young females have been spotted in recent months huffing glue in Avondale, often on the Avondale Primary School grounds. In response* to this, CAYAD organised a walk around the town centre to identify places where huffing and other anti-social behaviour happens with the ultimate aim of activating these spaces to make them safer. We were invited to the walk alongside members of Auckland Council, local community groups, social workers, arts practitioners and concerned residents. The walk was followed by a workshop to discuss ideas for activating/upgrading the spaces identified. There was an emphasis on improving Central Reserve and the old 3 Guys site (aka The Plantation): upgrading lighting, adding seating/tables/shade, making the spaces more family friendly and holding more events in the area for example. Central Reserve will be a focus for Together we are Avondale and other stakeholders going forward, as there is already council funding available for this space.

*The walk was one small part of addressing the huffing issue. The Avondale Business Association, Police, TYLA social workers and school staff are also working to stop local retailers selling glue to minors, and making contact with the young people to provide them with appropriate help.

PIPA Open Day

We were invited to an open day at the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts (PIPA), Rosebank Rd. There we were able to meet the staff and look at some of the facilities that PIPA is willing to share with the community when available. We also sat in on an acting workshop where prospective students were able to pick the brains of experienced actors Robbie Magasiva (Sione’s Wedding, Wentworth) and Rachel House (Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Moana).

Inspiring Communities Workshop

Late in the month we attended a workshop at the Gribblehirst Community Hub in Sandringham, hosted by Denise and Sissy of Inspiring Communities. The workshop was just a taster of a 2-day workshop scheduled for later in the year that Leilani will attend. Angie from the Southern Initiative spoke about the importance of community-led development or a “for whanau, by whanau” approach to build resilience in vulnerable communities. Verney from Beacon Pathway discussed Milenko’s framework for community development, noting that turnaround times were much quicker than conventional models and involved a higher level of community input. We had already been briefed on this framework by Shalema from Community Waitakere for the aforementioned Central Reserve upgrade.

Whau Youth Awards

We attended the first planning meeting for this year’s awards, which will likely be held June 1st. This will be the first year they have been opened up to the wider Whau rather than Avondale specifically. We discussed what the awards should look like and everyone agreed a formal, red carpet-style environment would be an ideal way of making the award-winners feel special. Other issues discussed included having respected/successful local people giving out the awards, raising sponsorship for  prizes, possible venues and what the food/entertainment might look like. Deahne from Creative Souls will project manage, with support from ourselves, PIPA, The Village Trust, TYLA, local school social workers and Generation Ignite.