From the 27th of March to the 5th of April, people all over Aotearoa will be encouraged to get to know their neighbours by holding local events and activities. Designed to improve mental health and increase safety through meaningful connections that combat loneliness and isolation, these locally driven events include small acts such as sharing a cup of tea and swapping seeds alongside bigger events such as clean ups, movie nights, community pantries and open days.
Last year Neighbours Day Aotearoa had over 450 events registered nationwide. With registrations currently open organisers again expect the ten-day celebration to be enthusiastically embraced by New Zealand communities. A Kāinga Ora tenant found their community experienced a positive change after holding Neighbours Day events in 2019. “It’s a lot friendlier. It takes work to do that. Most of us have been isolated for too long.”
There has been a lot of research done around better outcomes for people’s mental health and wellbeing when they feel more connected with their neighbours. The premise behind Neighbours Day Aotearoa is that every day ‘neighbourliness’ can contribute to enhancing resilience and wellbeing, especially to vulnerable groups in our society.
Isolation in New Zealand is a real problem. The NZ social report 2016 identifies young people as experiencing the highest rates of loneliness. Other factors associated with loneliness in this report are being female, having a low income, being a migrant, identifying as Asian or Māori, not living in a family nucleus, and being a sole parent. Read the research here.
Disconnection from communities is a global issue with many of the same problems being experienced in New Zealand reflective of international social challenges. A US 2010 meta-analytic study found that people with adequate social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival when compared to people with poor or insufficient relationships (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010). Read the research here.
In a survey completed by organisers following the 2019 event Neighbours Day Aotearoa showed that 84% met new neighbours after participating in Neighbours Day and 70% of participants feel more likely to ask their neighbours for help. Additionally, some of the events held over the 10-day celebration have led to further year-round activities such as sporting programmes for children, sustainability initiatives, art projects and community gardening. Neighbours Day is the gift that keeps on giving!
Started in 2009, Neighbours Day Aotearoa is a collaborative campaign organised and supported by Lifewise, Inspiring Communities, The Mental Health Foundation, Auckland Council, Christchurch Methodist Mission, New Zealand Red Cross, Neighbourhood Support New Zealand and Kāinga Ora. With support from the Tindall Foundation, thousands of neighbours, organisations, local government and local businesses have been involved, bringing neighbours together over the last weekend in March each year.
Interviews are available with local coordinators Tāwhana Chadwick (Wellington and Hastings), Cissy Rock (Auckland and Northland) and Sam Orchard (Wellington). Bios below. Interviews can also be organised with community groups.
Tāwhana Chadwick (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) is from Heretaunga but lives in Naenae, Te Whanganui-a-Tara. As a young child Tāwhana and his siblings were the first of their whānau to re-enter Māori immersion education by way of the Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa, Wharekura movement, following from two generations of language alienation. Tāwhana continues the legacy of those before him by teaching Te Reo Māori, sharing his understanding of Mātauranga Māori and co-facilitating Tiriti workshops.
Cissy Rock is committed to working alongside others, her approach is collaborative, dedicated and passionate. Cissy addresses symptoms of inclusion, exclusion and patronization, working with the dynamics of systems in ways that develop and build cohesion. With over 15 years’ experience working alongside communities and with Local Government, integrity is at the heart of her work.
Sam Orchard is committed to building a world where our many differences and complexities are celebrated. He writes comics, essays and children’s books, creates animated videos, podcasts, resources and social media campaigns with this aim. Sam’s recent activism projects include ‘We Are Beneficiaries’ and ‘Out Loud Aotearoa’. As part of these he organized and engaged other artists and writers to drive social change in New Zealand. These projects gained international attention across social media and news sites, amplifying viewpoints which are often missing from public discourse.