In an effort to bring positive and sustainable change to communities in the Henderson region of Auckland, a local initiative is engaging people in non-traditional ways. The McLaren Park and Henderson South Community Initiative (MPHS) works to creatively bring together groups of people, investigate various needs and help pioneer local ideas that make the community a better place.
Leao Tildsley, a Christian and a community development worker for MPHS at the time of this story, explains that it's important to get on the ground to find out what people want. " Sometimes as community development workers, we think we see a need but it's not necessarily what people want," she says. "It's not just about consultation but about getting to the heart of what it is people would love to do."
Last November Leao, along with others from MPHS, hosted a ladies pamper event to do just that— dig up some ideas from the local women and help empower them to fulfill those dreams.
They advertised a $2 pamper event where ladies could come and enjoy a time of relatively free pampering, snacking and socializing. It was an outreach to show love and appreciation for women in their area and to also facilitate an opportunity for the women to share their dreams and ideas for their communities.
Leao reports that around 45-50 women attended the event which was held in a friend's dance studio, 'Martin Creative'. After a time of relaxation and refreshment, MPHS gave an overview of their organization and had the women arrange into two lines and sit across from one another. Each person had five minutes to share with the person across from them about their interest in local improvements and ideas for various community groups or initiatives. The person opposite had to listen while they shared, then they swapped roles.
The ladies were then invited to share any ideas with the whole group and write it down on a large piece of paper. Out of that evening came a wide range of ideas like starting a group where older ladies could teach younger ladies sewing skills and the idea for a group for people interested in using herbs for making teas and jams. After the sharing sessions, team leaders gathered contact information from interested participants. Out of that night a few groups were initiated, including the herbs and jam group which was later championed by Project Twin Streams in Auckland.
Over the years MPHS has launched other initiatives like craft morning teas, youth camps, exercise groups, a men's group, gardens and a faith forum.
As a Christian, Leao sees the value of reaching people in ways that practically build community ties, help others take initiative and let God open doors for the gospel through relationship building.
"You can build relationships from any vehicle that gets you in touch with the community," she says. "You build relationships and ask God what it is and who it is that He wants you to be there for.”
After finishing up working with MPHS, Leao went on to start an outreach initiative, Soup for the Soul, with her husband. They regularly host a soup meal at a retirement village and minister to the people there. She met many of these folks through working through MPHS and carried on with those relationships even after leaving the organization.
"Because they are on their last chapter of their lives, we didn't want to just walk away from them," she explains. "So while I got to know them as a part of MPHS, I have since been able to go there with a different hat and minister to them in a different way. There is a place for social services, but we also need to find a way to also share the reality that Jesus changes lives. So I never give up on an opportunity even though it might not have a Christian umbrella, because God ultimately weaves everything together for His glory and for their good."