Saturday, 8 September 2012

Making friends, with fruit trees

Earlier today, before the rain started, I gathered together food, jackets, children and buggy and headed off for a short walk over the ridge, to a leafier part of town.  As we bumbled down the hill towards our destination I could see the people, two big trucks, and the bright shafts of spades.  When we got closer we could make out spindly trees, poking up from the grass, and the flurry of activity from adults and children alike.

This was a community fruit tree planting exercise, organised by the Puketapapa Local Board in response to submissions from the residents in surrounding streets to refresh their tired park and playground.  The renewal of the play equipment was completed earlier this year, and today was the day for all to muck in and make sure these fifteen fruit trees got the best possible start on a sunny slope above the houses.

I love this stuff.  Events like this have been the surprise joy of my local government involvement - local people coming together to achieve positive changes in their community that they can't do on their own.  I didn't get to actually plant a tree, as there was plenty of help from neighbours and I was more useful wrangling children, talking to people about how this happened, and taking photos.  But I've come away with a buzz nonetheless.

Part of the spark I get out of it is from the connections you see people making with each other, and the aha moments you can watch them having as they realise what they have in common, and what they could work on together.

The best examples of this today for me were the woman and her partner who had got the flyer in their letterbox and come along, having recently moved here from another part of Auckland where there was lots of community stuff, keen as beans to get into it here, and three children I came across helping put the mulch bark around the planted trees.  I had a chat to the kids and asked them their names, told them mine, pointed out my kids too, and then asked them if they knew each other before today.  "Nope" was the response.  Half an hour later they were making up their own games to play together on the playground.

Three children spreading bark mulch around a newly planted fruit tree.
From left to right: Emma, Sarah and Dave.
Community building can be as simple as giving neighbours a reason to get together and meet each other. Lots of the people I spoke to today were interested in coming over the hill in a fortnight's time to a poorer part of town to help with a community planting day there.  I look forward to seeing them again, and being able to at least exchange smiles of recognition in the street, on the bus, and in the supermarket. I hope they are feeling as zippy as I am this afternoon!

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