A sense of belonging doesn’t just come out of nowhere. If you’re looking to feel the community pulse and expand your social network, you’ll need to be proactive.
There’s a wide variety of ways you can get involved in your local area – here are some ideas you may not have considered yet …
No matter what their age or stage, everyone has an innate desire to be heard and to feel like they matter.
You could start with some of the youngest members of the community by helping out at the local primary school. Even if you have no particular connection to the school, if you have a current Working With Children Check, schools will usually welcome the extra support, either with classroom reading, in the school kitchen or with one of their annual fundraisers.
Youth groups often need a hand with fundraising, so if quiz nights, movies nights or sausage sizzles are your thing, help them out by arranging a fabulous event.
At the other end of the age spectrum, in every nursing home you come upon there will be elderly residents who’d love to share a bit of your time for a coffee and a chat, or perhaps have the newspaper read to them.
Your local Council will also have a Meals On Wheels program that is a vital part of community life. Sign up as a volunteer and you’ll not only get to meet fascinating new people with rich life stories, but you’ll discover new areas of your hometown, and see a range of houses and lifestyles, at the same time as delivering a nutritious and much-needed meal.
If you’re a hands-on, practical man, many suburbs have their own ‘Men’s Shed’ where members aged from 18 to 100 get together to use their skills in activities such as woodworking, gardening, metalwork and computing, to make items like toys for local toy libraries or furniture for refugees new to the country.
If you’re a little more introverted, you can still help people by donating clothes and household goods to your local op shop, stock the shelves in your city’s food bank, or visit a local homeless shelter to deliver and sort useful items.
We’ve all heard about the dire state our planet is in, and it’s not going to get any better if we sit behind our computer screens and read about it, so why not take the plunge and sign up to clean up a nearby beach or waterway? If it’s something you’re passionate about, you’ll also get to meet like-minded neighbours.
Working in a community garden contributes to a healthy lifestyle for locals by getting people outdoors and active, which in turn relieves stress and increases a sense of purpose. If gardening is your forte, you can teach others of all ages about plants, and provide them with fresh, safe, and affordable fruits, vegetables and herbs.
If you’re the creative type, galleries love to have volunteers to help visitors, and the bonus is you’ll get to view the artworks and new exhibitions to your heart’s content! Giving your time to the local library to sort books is another fun way to get amongst your interests while also giving back, or you can even make your own ‘Free Little Library’ outside your house and stock it with books you no longer want and would love to set out into the wider world. Imagine the chain of joy you’ll be sparking with this one simple act!
Our feathered and furry friends can also use some assistance, so visit the nearest pet shelter to assist by walking the dogs, repairing and maintaining structures, being a transport driver, giving admin support, or donating food and bedding. If you want to take it a step further, you could become a puppy raiser for organisations that train dogs for people with disabilities, or turn a spare room in your house into a wildlife rescue haven (if you’re game!)
Perhaps a love of shopping is what drives you! Make it your mission to visit and shop locally, and support as many small businesses in your area as possible – think cafes, delicatessens, clothing boutiques, farmer’s markets, beauty parlours and gift shops. You’ll encounter new locals and keep your money local too!
Contributing to your community can be as simple as doing more of what you love!
Check out the calendar of events and get along to local film festivals, writers festivals, art exhibitions, fetes and garage sales. Even better, arrange a group of friends to join you and help boost the number of attendees so these activities are viable for the organisers, meaning they can keep putting them on year after year and keep your area lively.
It’s not a hard ask for sporting fans to attend games and support local teams. Seeing fans watching on can give players a huge boost. Plus, you may just be watching the stars of the future!
Finally, join a class at either a privately run studio or a Neighbourhood House and learn a new skill or improve an old one. You’ll be helping a fellow resident build their business, and will get to meet others with the same interests as you.
Despite the gloom and doom on the news, people power is alive and well, and if you’re willing to help on a local level, the results will be visible in your daily life. So open that front door and step into the bustling life that surrounds you!