Communities connecting post-quake
Cheviot community connector Megan Handyside’s appointment in January 2016 was, with hindsight, perfectly timed.
It meant she was in place when the earthquake hit 10 months later, able to hit the ground running, providing support and connections in the immediate aftermath.
Her role was established in response to a recommendation in the Greater Canterbury Community Response Forum — Hurunui Community Report, an initiative from then Social Development Minister Paula Bennett aimed at understanding what local people felt about social and wellbeing issues in their community.
The report highlighted the need for someone to identify needs within the community, provide connection, and support and champion community-based projects and ideas, and as such the community connector role was born.
Initially funded via the Ministry of Social Development, the role now has the support of the Department of Internal Affairs and Rata Foundation. Handyside said her workload postearthquiake increased, and additional roles had been created.
‘‘It was, and still is, an important role to advocate for the Cheviot community and ensure that decision makers don’t forget about our community, and are aware of what’s happening at a local level.’’
There are now two connectors in Cheviot, two in Culverden/ Waiau, one in Amberley and another responsible for Hawarden/Waikari. They are employed by Connect Hurunui Incorporated and report to social/community service network Together Hurunui.
A lot of their work involves community-based projects, including helping community groups with funding applications, supporting individuals, coordinating with the school to run the recent Helping Hands Day and organising the upcoming 125 years of settlement in Cheviot celebrations which will take place next year.
Another example of work she has recently been involved in is championing support for a community house.
‘‘With the increase in community and social services working in Cheviot there has been a demand for office space in our community. The Cheviot Ward committee has recently agreed to lease the Doctors House, which has recently been used as a temporary medical centre, to the Cheviot Community Trust for use as a community house.’’
Once resource consent was granted it would provide vital office space for social and community workers, as well as a space for exciting communitybased projects to grow, she said.
Cheviot Area School students enjoy a game of Connect Four at the recent Helping Hands Day, coordinated with the help of community connector Megan Handyside.