#62 Be. Young Be. You: Neighbours Day Aotearoa

Neighbours Day logo - click to go to Neighbours Day websiteAs I sit down to write this, I have just attended a university memorial service to mark the two year anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake. The main theme of the service – a recurring theme in many events over the last two years – was that it is the people that make a place. 

As the Maori saying goes, “He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!” or translated, “What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people! It is the people! It is the people!”

This got me thinking of the importance of knowing and connecting with the people around you, especially in times of emergency and disaster. One of the most important groups of people to connect with, I think, is your neighbours. Right now you may not know their names, what they do for work, or what they enjoy doing in their spare time, but they are the people that, should some sort of widespread emergency occur, may be your first and only possible port of call.

It happened during the earthquake; elderly and disabled people stuck in their homes with no power, running water and a limited food supply, relied heavily on their neighbours to bring them fresh water, more food and whatever else they needed. Apart from having the essentials, having someone to connect with during such a stressful time is also very important to a person’s well-being.

Neighbours may be especially important during times of emergency, but I think connecting with them is beneficial generally. Knowing the people around one’s neighbourhood allows for the building of a strong local community, and with a strong local community comes a sense of belonging, which leads to people being happier, friendlier, more smiley, and the neighbourhood a more enjoyable place to be.

So with Neighbours’ Day coming up in March, the question is, how can we ensure that people with access needs have the chance to interact with their neighbours and therefore feel this sense of belonging in their community? It may not be as simple as knocking on their door as the entrance to their house may not be accessible.

Still – I think getting to know your neighbours is fairly simple. Next time you see one out and about, why not go over and strike up a conversation? Mention that you’re interested in getting to know them and others around the neighbourhood – invite them over if you like. You may not be able to get into their house, but they will be able to get into yours! Get them to introduce you to others around the neighbourhood and soon enough, there will be a whole group of people whom you know and can call on in times of need.

Sure, things may not go to plan and they may be deserving of a starring role on “Neighbours From Hell”, but I think it’s about having the courage to take the first step in connecting with people.

“Love thy neighbour”? Well, you decide! Love or not, here’s to a successful Neighbours’ Day!