Belonging in the Capital
How do we feel connected in a new city? For new residents in Aotearoa, friendly third places can be hard to find. Guest poster Alina shares her experience searching for belonging in her new home, and has tips for others new to Wellington.
“What would be your biggest ask?” This recent question took me by surprise.
Still, the answer came to me clearly: Belonging.
Throughout my life, the question of belonging has always been strongly present. When you move countries multiple times throughout your life, as many of us do, this idea is not a foreign one. My latest move was to come and live in Wellington about three years ago. I arrived on my own, not knowing a single soul, and ever since been doing the best I can to feel connected. On some days it easier, and on some … not so much.
I see Wellington as a place where everyone is linked in one way or another, and you quite literally can’t avoid running into at least one person you know as you step outside. But then having extensive networks and feeling like you truly belong is not quite the same, is it?
And where do we go when we want to feel like we belong? Often we are so caught up in the things we “have” to do, that we neglect our well being. The result is this sense of isolation and not knowing where to turn when life becomes a bit too overwhelming.
The whole concept of belonging is a complex one. It ranges between the internal balance and self-acceptance to a sense of connection to other people in our circles.
I want to narrow the focus on the ways we belong within our communities and highlight a few options that worked well for me and could be useful for others.
There are many ways to find something that works for you – from checking with your local library, browsing community groups available through City Council, exploring different groups through Meetup or perhaps the local listings through Neighbourly.
You can help at your local community garden, get to meet and share food, laughs and cups of tea with your neighbours at Crop Swap monthly gatherings or connect with people over dinner through Tuesday Night Dinners.
There is always something going on in the city. Wellington City Council maintains a calendar of events on their website, to tap into a wide array of activities and interests.
There are many markets to explore – Sunday Market, Wellington Night Market and the Vegan Vault are some of the best examples that have the perfect mix of locally sourced food, live music and the buzz of people. Sustainability Trust is another option to keep in mind for events with a community and sustainability focus.
Events such as Newtown Festival, Cuba Dupa, Aro Valley Summer Sounds and Island Bay Day In The Bay focus on celebrating the people and the unique flavour of those parts of Wellington. For the arty folks out there, the monthly Thursday late nights events by City Gallery are worth exploring. And if you are interested in the creative sector, it is very useful to know about the existence of Creative Mornings and TEDx local chapters.
Volunteering is not only great for using your skills to make a positive impact with a cause dear to your heart, but also a fantastic way to connect with people, to try something different and feel a sense of being part of something bigger.
In addition to Volunteer Wellington and Volunteering New Zealand, there are other exciting options available for people who want to do good and not sure where to start. Collaborate is an online platform helping unlocking opportunities with charities and community groups nearby aligning with your preferences (such as interests, skills and availability). Wellington Timebank provides people with the opportunity to exchange their skills with other members of the community, and to help individuals in their neighbourhood.
The above suggestions are just scraping the tip of the iceberg. Wellington has plenty of things happening, groups to join, places to go.
Finding our community
Could we be doing a better job of helping people find these places, to connect with those around them? You can still feel alone while standing in a crowd. A sense of belonging comes from making connections with others. The process of finding places and groups is not always an easy task.
And, what about when you don’t know exactly what you are looking for? For me, the “accidental” discoveries had the best outcomes. But what if these didn’t happen?
How can we make it easier for people to find communities where they can truly thrive?
I hope to open this conversation, to hear what has worked well for others, and share ways we can ensure the people around us are not feeling left out.
- We reflect on the role that our everyday physical environment plays in building social cohesion.
- Opportunities to volunteer in Wellington.
- Needs vs wants? Maslow’s famous hierarchy – and belonging is right up there
- Banner image Cuban Fusion
- Lonely image, Hoani Hotene (Newswire)
- Conservation volunteering, the Jane Goodall Institute NZ
Do you find it easy to find places or people to meet?
Do you have a third place – not home, or work – where you feel you belong?
Could we open up spaces in Wellington to create more third places? To engage people and increase the possibility of social interaction.