Start with a smile in Ashburton
Start with a smile, follow it up with a chat, and get to know the people who make the Ashburton community what it is.
That’s the aim of a new campaign launched last week by the Ashburton District Council called Start with a Smile, and it’s hoped it will help make newcomers to the district feel more welcome.
The new Start with a Smile campaign aims to make the Ashburton District more welcoming to newcomers, through encouraging locals to smile and start a conversation with someone from a different background, whether it’s at work, school or waiting in line at the supermarket.
Start with a Smile was first run last year in Christchurch, by the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, in response to the large number of overseas rebuild workers in the city.
Ashburton District Council took the campaign up as part of its leading role in the newcomer and migrant settlement work programme under the Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy.
Ashburton District Council’s community relations manager Vincie Billante said Ashburton’s population was becoming more ethnically diverse, with strong communities now from places like the Philippines, Pacific Islands, India and South America.
‘‘Start with a Smile is all about getting to know the new people in Ashburton, whether they are your colleague, classmate or neighbour. We’re encouraging locals to be welcoming, just by starting with a simple smile.’’
The focal point of the campaign will be a blue ‘Smile Couch’ – a place where locals and newcomers can sit down and get to know each other - which comes equipped with cards with questions to ask on them. The couch will travel around the district to events, public places, community spaces, workplaces and schools. Ashburton residents will also be encouraged to host their own Start with a Smile event.
‘‘A potluck lunch, family sports day or even just inviting the newest employee to after-work drinks can all contribute to making newcomers feel at home here,’’ Billante said.
She said a smile was a universal language that broke down barriers, and it was hoped it would do just that in the Ashburton District.
The campaign will run through until March, and is also being picked up by other Canterbury councils.
Sophie-Claire Violette and twins Taiwo and Kehinde George try out the Start with a Smile couch.