On the 19th of May 2023, the Oak Development Trust held its usual Friday community café at the Riccarton Baptist Church. However, the gathering last week was a special occasion as the group was celebrating 10 years of the café.
In 2013 the café was established through the support of the Neighbourhood Policing team in the area, City Council, Oak Development Trust and local residents. Each group provided people with the drive, expertise, vision and energy to create a drop-in café to promote a sense of belonging in the Riccarton area.
Several of the original movers and shakers were present on Friday, where they were welcomed by the manager of Oak Development Trust, Carol Renouf. The regular attendees who were present gave these people a very warm welcome.
Geoff Ngataierua, Chairman Oak Development Trust Board, provided a karakia and then Carol spoke of the inspiration and vision the local groups had for the area.
Tyler Harrison-Hunt, our local City Councillor spoke of his belief and aspirations for the Riccarton area. He said that the mana, strength and connection shown in the group was apparent and praised the feeling of homeliness, and the obvious welcoming spirit among the group. He said he had experienced this himself when he was part of the Meet the Candidates event held here last year.
Brad Hagerty, one of the original Neighbourhood Policing Team, who helped with the setting up in 2013, also mentioned how impressive the success of the café has been with many people finding a safe place to connect with others locally.
Community Board members Helen Broughton and Gamal Fouda were present along with Council staff Marie Byrne and Helen Miles.
Photos from the last 10 years were displayed on a monitor and provided some hilarity as well as great memories.
To the delight of many, Nicki Aitken, Community Development Worker for the Oak Development Trust, introduced an activity, which is something she provides on every café day. Nicki has the happy knack of being able to connect with everybody on a personal level very quickly. This ability, and Carol’s warmth and humour, are the basis for the welcoming spirit and friendship so apparent among the members of the group.
We were reminded that even during Covid, a way was found through Zoom, for people to connect. Big birthdays are celebrated and outings to Sumner and a garden have been part of the café experience.
One of the original crew at the time of the setting up of the café, Yvonne, spoke beautifully about her experiences at the café and how it had helped her overcome difficulties and given her a sense of purpose. She and Min, who helps in the kitchen, deserve the praise of all for making the coffee and tidying up after us
Regular Café attendees were all of one mind when it came to talking about how important the café had become in their lives. All mentioned the family-feeling generated and how quickly new people were made to feel welcome. The fact that so many keep turning up to engage with others is a testament to how special this place is to many.