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Real people, real communities

Tania Reuben (left) and T.K. Paul, from Hakatere Marae, are cooking soup for all seven Connecting Community Events. Photo: Kate White

As winter arrives, ties in rural mid-Canterbury are being strengthened by farm-donated vegetables, marae-cooked soup and children clambering into fire engines.

“The focus is to connect people with each other and the organisations that are servicing their area,” says Kate White, the Connecting Mid Canterbury Charitable Trust Coordinator.

During May and June, the trust is running seven interactive, fun events at community halls in small settlements plus the town of Methven.

One aim is to get people off their farms and mingling with others, so the events run straight after work on weekdays, with childcare and a light dinner provided.

“It starts at 5.30 – no one is there at 5.30!,” Kate says. Some arrive at 5.45 p.m. and others dribble in after that.

Locals have swung in behind the idea: some have given spot prizes and Lovett Family Farms has donated potatoes, beetroot, squash and world-class onions for soup.

Two Hakatere Marae members tried their hand at cooking Thai Pumpkin Soup, unsure what it would taste like.

“Vegetarian soup has been a stretch for them,” Kate says, noting that they were filling in because the original chef had to pull out. The soup was a hit.

“It was really tasty and everyone liked it.”

Using other seasonal veg, the marae has also cooked beetroot and potato soup. For meat-lovers, local Lions Clubs host sausage sizzles.

During the first hour, children enjoy crafts and climbing over a fire engine, kindly driven in by firefighters.

“The children have an absolute ball – turning on the fire truck lights and running around.”

Children explore a fire engine at the Connecting Community Event at Dorie, Canterbury, in May. Photo: Kate White

Kate says that first hour, adults discover more about the trust’s Keep Learning and TimeBank initiatives.

They access the relevant websites to answer questions and win spot prizes:

that worked well in the halls that had mobile reception!”


They also hear about Rural Support Mid Canterbury, Neighbourhood Support, Wellbeing Ōpuke, Citizens Advice Bureau, Mid Canterbury Newcomers Network, the marae and what Covid-19 support is available in the district.

The organisations’ representatives talk about how they can assist country people.

For instance, the Rural Support Trust might introduce the children’s book they’re giving away about surviving drought and other difficult times.

The second hour is a chance for participants to further get to know each other while eating kai.

Kate can’t believe how quickly and positively all the organisations have become involved in the Connecting Community Events.

Building resilience and well-being

Four events have been held in the Lagmhor Westerfield Hall, Hinds Community Centre, Mt Hutt Memorial Hall in Methven and Ardamine Hall in Dorie.

The next ones will be at the Hakatere Marae on June 2, Wakanui Community Hall on June 7 and Mt Somers Hall on June 15.

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has funded them as part of a $20,000 grant to the trust. The aim is to help rural families help themselves and to strengthen resilience and well-being.

Kate says tiny Dorie has had the biggest response, with at least 50 locals turning up at its hall.

This was because key people in the area said they’d come. She notes that sometimes small communities have strong networks.

So far, the get-togethers have attracted mostly families with parents aged in their thirties and forties, although some Rakaia retirees participated.

At least 50 locals plus volunteers turned up at the Ardamine Hall in Dorie for May’s Connecting Community Event. Photo: Kate White

She says unfortunately very few migrants have attended, even though many are labouring on mid-Canterbury farms.

The grant has also paid for promotional brochures to be designed and delivered to 4400 Rural Delivery boxes in this agriculturally-rich part of the South Island.

Kate says that following the events, ideas are starting to flow in from local communities about what they could do in future.

Together they’ll see what the needs are and how they can meet them.

Keep Learning runs about 40 events a year, usually in Ashburton and some in rural areas.

A suicide prevention workshop is planned for Methven and an “easy meals” one for Rakaia.

Kate says Keep Learning Mid Canterbury provides opportunities to continue learning and to connect, both of which the Mental Health Foundation endorses.

“Being out of the house and with someone else…connection is important for people.”

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For further information:

Keep Learning Mid Canterbury

Mid Canterbury TimeBank story and website

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu

Five ways to mental well-being


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