Thoughts of community centres used to conjure images of grey haired grannies nodding off in chairs. A visit to Karori community centre, in one of the suburbs of Wellington changed all of that. There was indeed lots of grey hair, some no doubt the heads of grannies, but there was little nodding off, and lots of young faces too.
Eithne Wyndham Smith, one of two managers of the centre, gave me a tour around and a run down on activities. There is indoor bowls, meals on wheels, a drop in centre, a youth centre (complete with pool table and video games and two youth workers), a toy library (like a book library, only with toys- great idea), a parenting room.. among other things.
To help fund it all is an ‘op shop’, manned by volunteers, where the sales profits are fed back into the community centre to help with the running and maintenance of the services.
I popped along to the centre because in all of this talk about social change it is easy to ignore the things on our doorsteps. Community centres are hubs for bringing people together and for many an entry into new friendships. To others it is more than just that, but a lifeline.
(It was a case of small world syndrome when meeting Eithne. She mentioned that her daughter, Theresa, is currently working with the UN in Lesotho. I mentioned that a friend of mine, Joanna, is also working with the UN in Lesotho. One minute later Eithne pulls out of her email a photo of Joanna and Theresa having dinner together. Small world indeed- I love it!)