Local programs helping to connect the community together
North Melbourne Language and Learning (NMLL) and Kensington Neighbourhood House (KNH) are looking forward to continuing with life changing programs after being selected as 2023 Connected Community Grants recipients.
The City of Melbourne program awarded both not-for-profit organisations with funding, allowing them both to continue with the diverse “extraordinary work” they’re doing for the local community.
“Not only do they provide safe spaces for people to learn, grow and upskill, but also the opportunity to create lifelong friendships and pathways to meaningful employment,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.
While KNH’s “From the HeART” program is helping to rebuild social connections through an intergenerational community art project, NMLL’s “Out & About” program is facilitating cultural exchange through connecting members with local services and city landmarks.
Upon receiving recognition from the council, NMLL community development worker Kymie Simpson said the centre was incredibly thankful and “excited to see what [it] can do in the coming year” with the funding.
“This program is something we couldn’t have provided for the community without this support because we are still definitely in the COVID recovery period,” she said.
Seeing the “serious impact” that lockdowns had on many of the residents of the public housing estates within the area, Ms Simpson said the Out & About program was a chance to create trust, connection, and independence.
“I work with these residents and community members every day and the transformation in someone’s confidence and independence is so important and pivotal for their wellbeing,” she said.
“We can connect with people and explore new places not just for fun but to also help them with getting their bearings and understanding their new home while taking advantage of everything that is around.”
Following the end of lockdowns, NMLL has been doing a series of events throughout this year with the program.
From visits to the zoo, to the aquarium, and cherry picking, the impact of the program has already been successful in making the participants feel more comfortable with life in Melbourne.
“It was beautiful to see people be able to step back onto trams and trains and go out and explore after being locked up for so long,” Ms Simpson said.
“We took residents to the Melbourne Aquarium, and it was particularly heart-warming when an elderly lady from the Somali community told me she had never caught public transport because she had always been too scared and had no-one to go with. But she felt so comfortable going with us.”
“For people to have that independence is just incredible and so valuable.”
Equally as understanding of the impacts the pandemic restrictions had on their community is KNH, which is using the grant to help participants of its program to explore and reflect on their sense of belonging post-COVID.
Partnering with the Kensington Community Children’s Cooperative, the program will include a series of art workshops which are aimed at bringing young and older community members together.
The need for more initiatives and programs involving people of all ages was highlighted as a key priority for residents in the council’s Participate Kensington consultations, and so KNH made it a priority to respond to this apparent need.
“Creating things together is a great way to build community connections,” KNH manager Rebecca Smith said.
“We’re looking forward to getting local children together with senior residents to make something amazing, and to share stories along the way.”
Within the sessions, participants will be working on an art installation that will be displayed on a section of the hoarding around the construction at Kensington Recreation Centre.
Including KNH and NMLL, the council is dedicated to supporting 74 not-for-profit community organisations to deliver programs and projects across the city in 2023, with awarded grants of up to $20,000.
Of the 2023 Connected Community Grants program recipients, 38 per cent were first time applicants. •