I’ve been going to the community dinners since they began at the Ruapotaka Marae. I take all 3 of my children and meet up with all of the other regulars that come every week. I enjoy catching up with them and seeing how their week has been and I also enjoy welcoming new comers to the dinner – sometimes they become regulars as well and sometimes they’re more sporadic and come once and awhile.
I feel that the dinners are very successful in engagement with the community and Nandita asked me the other day why. I quickly said that it must be the food. But when I thought about it, we don’t come for the food. And I bet a lot of others don’t either. When I really think about why it’s successful, I guess I could look at myself and think why we go every single Friday and why we tell others to come with us.
I’ve got three kids. And there is an element of ease. It’s one less meal to think about for me. I only prep 4 week day meals. That makes a real impact on my week. I feel I can actually relax on Fridays.
I want my kids to grow up with a strong sense of community. And this is what Pockets of Hope really achieves for our Whānau. Our kids enjoy connecting with the other kids that come and they engage with so many different types of other families. My 5 yr old son has befriended a Chinese boy at the dinners and they play the a lot together. He’s the least social out of my kids, and this relationship has really helped him feel more settled in his community.
When the dinners first started, some of the men especially would come in with hoods and sunglasses on. They would almost act like they weren’t allowed there. But over the months, they have really relaxed. A lot of them know my name now and they smile when they see me, kiss my cheek and ask how my week has been. Now when I see them around GI, they greet me the same way, with no inhibitions. We greet each other like friends.
The best word that I can think of to describe the conversations we have over dinner is random. Sometimes, we gather as leaders in the community. Talking about the true meaning of collaboration and agreeing to commit to working on specific projects together. And then other times, I find myself talking to a random guy who tells me about his Te Reo course and his eagerness to grow his kōrero every day. We talked about trying to use it more at the dinner once a week.
Often, I realize that other mums watch me and my children interact. I’ve had many a korero with mums and nans about kids and different ways of figuring things out with them. We don’t use flash words like consequences, boundaries or incentives. But we do talk about those things.
Just lately Tamaki WRAP has joined the dinners by invite from HEART to enable the washing of plates and keeping the food waste out of the landfill bins. The dishes washing has been really interesting to watch. Some people find it hard to stand beside strangers waiting to wash their plates. But you know what? It was hard to wait in line for the kai to start with too. I reckon this is just another opportunity that is being created for people to connect with others.
I think it’s pretty tough to be able say exactly what makes Pockets of Hope successful. It’s relationship building, it’s role modeling, it’s warm community space creating, its gentle challenging, it’s connection making. It’s unique. And we love it.
– Tara Moala