59 days ago

Friendship Benches

Ralph from Central Whangarei

Friendship benches tackle social isolation through good old chat.

Cafler Park’s Rose Gardens prosper this Spring, in a different way than usual. . . whilst the flower buds are still blooming, new friendships are about to flourish.

Whangarei Communities are set to welcome their first two public Friendship Benches at a blessing held in the gardens on Saturday 30 November 2019, 10 am. The blessing is open to the public to come and celebrate the concept.
The Northland Indian Association Inc (NIAI) have proudly donated these two Friendship Benches to the Community in partnership with the Whangarei District Council. “These are the first of two NIAI Friendship Benches and we hope to see others in Northland” says Ralph Correa, Northland Indian Association, Board Chair.
The idea is aimed at combating Social Isolation amongst our communities an issue raised by senior members of the NIAI and the Whangarei District Council’s Positive Ageing Advisory Group (PAAG) earlier in the year. Board members of the NIAI were keen to support PAAG as social isolation can also be common in ethnic groups who are settling. The Friendship bench, a village concept is simple yet effective. People can sit and share the space with someone who is open to have a chat, listen, share stories and make friends. All ages, cultures and abilities can participate.
The concept was tested at the Whangarei Central Library inside on the International Day of Older Adults and was well received. The bench was also presented at the “Diwali Festival of Lights” held on 12 October 2019 at Forum North where 500 community members were in attendance.
“Friendship benches are strategically placed in an open and well-travelled by area of the park so that people can easily identify when someone is seeking conversation, but also to ensure people are safe” says Spencer Jellyman, Technical Officer, Parks Department, Whangarei District Council.
People are busy and have less time to stop to have a chat. There is a growing epidemic of Social Isolation, especially after the ‘stranger danger’ days. It may sound like a strong term, but social isolation is a potential danger for many of us. Simple tools like a friendship bench could be the highlight of someone’s day and make a real difference. It’s a phrase we may associate with older people when they become less active and able to engage in their community, but social isolation can easily occur at any age.

“The Friendship Bench is a safe mechanism with the ability to really boost community connections across the district”, says Ralph Correa.
Interested in having more friendship benches around the district? The NIAI is accepting donations to introduce the seats to other areas of Whangarei. For further information please contacting contact@northlandindianassociation.com.

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