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Neighbourhood Support fights to keep community spirit alive one year into pandemic

By: Stuff

Palmerston North Neighbourhood Support is keen to keep the community spirit alive. Photo / Warwick Smith

One year on from the nation's first lockdown one woman is fighting to keep Palmerston North's community spirit alive.

Alison Jarden, the city's Neighbourhood Support manager, was overwhelmed by the influx of interest in support networks last year when the first Covid-19 lockdown began on March 25, as many people discovered they were more isolated than they realised.

But quickly communities rallied together, and Jarden is focused on making sure the momentum isn't lost as the day-to-day pressures of the pandemic appear to decline.

Knowing your neighbours is the best way to keep your community safe and yourself connected, especially during times of stress, Jarden said.

“If you live in a community and don’t know anyone you can feel completely removed.

“It's about knowing people in your neighbourhood so if stuff happens you know who's vulnerable, who needs help and who's there to help you.

“And people are connecting, we just want that to broaden.”

Knowing someone well enough to borrow a cup of sugar, feel confident enough to leave them with your kids in an emergency or identifying people on your street that may need support turns a group of houses into a community, Jarden said.

Neighbourhood support networks also give your homes an extra eye of protection, she said.

“We get incredible information for the police from neighbourhood support members.”

Central District prevention manager Inspector Ross Grantham said communities that band together help to keep themselves safe.

“One of the best ways we can prevent crime is through our capable and observant community guardians.

“It’s important for our communities to look out and look after each other. Being visible and attentive in your neighbourhood makes it less attractive to those less honest within the community.”

To keep up the momentum, Jarden will be running a competition from March 20-30 encouraging communities to get to know their neighbours and celebrate Neighbours Day Aotearoa.

“So many people don't know their neighbours now,” she said. “There’s people who have lived in their street of 50 years, but the turnover of houses and residents and also so many more people are renting.”

People who gather their closest five neighbours and send their details to Palmerston North Neighbourhood Support's website could win a barbecue and meat pack to kick-start their new – or existing –support group with an old-fashioned street party.

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