Group an antidote to rural isolation
Since its inception in September 2011, the Rural Women’s Social Group has been meeting monthly at the Okoroire Hotel for drinks, chats and the occasional guest speaker. Meetings are on the first Thursday of every month, with the most recent on November 7.
In February 2008, Sian van Heuven, a 33-year-old from Southampton, England moved to Te Poi for love.
She was working as an Accident & Emergency nurse and married to a local boy, a dairy farmer, but despite these connections to the district, Ms van Heuven found that, ironically, many of the upsides to rural living were also the downsides.
As much as she enjoyed the privacy and isolation of farm life, it meant that it was difficult to meet people and branch out socially.
Three years later, in September 2011, Ms van Heuven co- founded the Rural Women’s Social Group for women who live in the rural areas of the district.
The average age of
the attendees at the most recent meeting appeared to be early 30s.
The group dynamic is always interesting; life gets in the way and may prevent someone from attending a meeting here and there but that face will pop up again soon enough.
All are welcome and there is no fee to join.
In short, it is an informal night out to have a drink, a chat, a laugh and some proverbial girl talk.
It was clear by the friendly and sometimes playfully teasing rapport that many of the attendees have forged friendships with one another outside of this monthly meeting.
The attendees are a colourful group and the cultural mix is part of their charm.
At the November meeting, there were a few Canadians, a handful of Brits, and Kiwis making up the balance.
Of the Kiwis, some are local and others are transplants from all around the country.
Their jobs are as varied as their backgrounds; that night, I met a nurse, two physiotherapists, a teacher turned dairy farmer, a stayat- home mum and a jewellery maker, among others.
All of the women agreed that living remotely makes having a night out logistically more difficult than for city- dwellers, which only serves to heighten the isolation many rural men and women already feel.
Perhaps Emma, a physiotherapist from England, put it best.
‘‘The one thing I find is that people are really friendly here on the surface but because everybody already knows everybody, it’s really hard to break through the layers. That’s why this group is so great.’’
Miriam Cohen- Krajden (MCK) sat down with Ms van Heuven (SVH) and sev- eral other members to get a closer view of the group and what it has to offer.
MCK: How would you describe the group? What does it give you?
SVH: Like-minded young women getting together, to chew the fat, break up the day.
MCK: Why did you found the group?
SVH: I needed the friends! (laughs) No, really, I needed to get out and meet some people.
Gathering: Members of the Rural Women’s Social Group at Okoroire Hotel.