Without realising it, Joel McLachlan from AdviceKiwi became the spark that has helped build a sense of community, purpose, and strong and genuine friendships in a new and fast-growing suburb in North Canterbury.
This is important in an area that is filled with people who have either been displaced after the Canterbury earthquakes or have moved in from outside the area.
What have you got to lose?
Joel stumbled across a $50,000 grant being offered by AIA Insurance for a community project that promotes physical and mental well-being.
Without knowing of any specific projects in his area, Joel decided to go down to his local community centre and ask.
He was told by Ronel Stephens, who volunteers at the centre, about the newly formed MenzShed group and how they were looking for a permanent structure for their members to work on individual and community-based building projects.
“It was clear that they provide a really important mental and physical health service for men within our community, by bringing them together to build things that benefit everyone within our town,” said Joel.
AdviceKiwi pitched the idea to AIA and was subsequently chosen as one of the recipients of the community grants to enable the Pegasus-Woodend MenzShed to build a permanent home in Gladstone Park, Woodend.
With the Waimakariri council in the process of signing off on a 33-year lease to occupy the land, the MenzShed members hope to be in their new dwelling in four months’ time.
As a new organisation, the Pegasus-Woodend MenzShed members are incredibly grateful and excited to have their own home. What started out in October 2019 as three men, quickly grew to 12 and now they are 20 members strong and growing.
When asked what it means to have a permanent home, treasurer and member Derrick Wales said,
It keeps the guys together. Are you feeling lost? – go and build something.”
Chairperson Sam Watt also points out the importance and need of a permanent home for a MenzShed in a relatively new area. He says that we need to consider new communities where many people have moved from all walks of life.
Pegasus, Woodend and now Ravenswood are being filled up with people who were displaced after the earthquakes, moving in from overseas and other parts of the country and who might not otherwise know anyone local.
Sam says, “MenzShed provides previously unknown members of a new community with comradery, that is difficult for men to find especially once they have retired.”
Looking out for each other
The Pegasus-Woodend MenzShed members have been involved in several community projects such as building and setting up a community stall for people to ‘take what you need, give what you can’.
They have renovated equipment for the local school’s junior syndicate and built fences, seats, wood stores and garden sheds for members of their community.
However, Sam says, “It’s not necessarily about ‘what we do’ but that we are providing each other with moral support, sharing skills and resources, and that we just have somewhere to go and have a cup of tea.”
It’s all about the tea break!”
says Derrick, as the other members laugh and nod in approval.
Looking around the table I see a dedicated group of men whose paths might not have crossed without MenzShed. The banter and jokes flying around are a testament to strong and genuine friendships.
Friendships, in the modern age we live in surely must be just as important to mental health as exercise and a good diet.
Respective of our age, gender, or skill set, if we find ourselves feeling flat, lonely, or out of sorts, perhaps we should think about joining a club, group, or team.
Because from what I can see here at the table, is that there is strength in numbers, and it is never too late to find new friends.
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