Get Online Week a winner for all

While Cire had hoped to deliver its recent Get Online Week (GOLW) activities face-to-face, the Be Connected-funded initiative had to be modified for virtual delivery.

Given that Be Connected is an Australia-wide initiative to empower all Australians, particularly seniors, to thrive in a digital world, the virtual GOLW was a fun opportunity for even further skills and confidence building.

Cire Community Hubs initially planned to host events and Be Connected information sessions at Chirnside Park, Yarra Junction and Lilydale.
The revised format comprised a trivia session, a walk through the myGov site and how to use it, followed by bingo with information on social media. Enthusiasm-charged participants joined both.
The trivia group thoroughly enjoyed the topics, which focused on celebrities, technology, fashion, and music from the 1950s to the late 1980s. There were three rounds of trivia in between a two-part presentation on myGov.

For the bingo, bingo sheets were delivered (in a Covid-safe manner) to all those who had registered, adding an additional element of fun to the event.
In preparation for the Be Connected events, visually engaging PowerPoint presentations were created on the focus topics – myGov and social media – which were selected from the Be Connected resource library.
Social media looked at how to create accounts on three of the most popular platforms used by seniors (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and how to stay safe. Over the past two years, social media has been used more than ever, as it was the only way to stay connected with family and friends during Covid lockdowns. As a result of high use, the number of social media scams and viruses spiralled. The Cire session focused on how to find settings, ensure accounts are secure, and how to identify scams and viruses.
The myGov session addressed how to set up an account and how to link government services. This was greatly received as many seniors do not have myGov accounts or know how to navigate them, which results in having to spend more time accessing services to get the required information.
Participant feedback conveyed how excited, and appreciative everyone was that events were not cancelled but held online, providing them with a w chance to socialise.

Hubs Manager Jenelle Strachan said the level of social interaction was wonderful. Many of the participants did not know each other before the events but willingly connected, had a laugh, and established friendships.
Throughout the sessions, participants asked questions that showed they were generally interested in the chosen topics and requested copies of the presentations to refer to the information and have the details on how to sign up to Be Connected. It was great to see that participants were eager to create Be Connected accounts to access further learning modules.

Chin program highlights Cire pathways

A new Cire program to assist the Chin community has also highlighted the opportunities that Cire offers TAFE placement students to make a real difference to the lives of others while learning the necessary skills for future employment.

Burmese English and Recovery (BEAR) has been enthusiastically welcomed by local Chin people since its July launch to help the community navigate the challenges of COVID and creating future pathways.  One of the main focuses includes providing Chin women with practical English skills so they can understand health messages and directives and other important information.

Delivered at Chirnside Park Community Hub which serves a significant Chin population in Melbourne’s outer east, BEAR was designed by Cathy Day while undertaking a placement with Cire as part of her certificate studies in Community Services.  Cathy also assisted with securing the necessary funding through the Priority Response for Multicultural Communities during Coronavirus program Phase 2. Having completed her work placement hours and well on track to securing her additional qualification, Cathy is now casually employed by Cire to deliver the program under the supervision of the Hub Manager.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to see the development of this program from a seed of an idea through to fruition … The happy faces of Chin women involved makes all the hard work worthwhile,” says Cathy.

Given the current lockdown, BEAR is being delivered by ZOOM to ensure continued support, particularly during tightened restriction periods.

Feedback from a recent Zoom (pictured) where participants were shown how to book online for COVID vaccines, highlighted the value of the program:

  • This program is fantastic and I feel comfortable in the group- Aye Aye
  • I like to practice my English skills and enjoy the sessions- Za Chin

In the following account, Cathy describes how BEAR came to be and her own journey.

It all started when another community house contacted Cire on behalf of a group of Burmese women from the Chin community wanting English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.

At the time, I was doing my student placement with Cire and said I could potentially facilitate a conversational English group as I had previous training in ESL.

The then Hub Coordinator, Naomi Taylor and I did some brainstorming and fortuitously, at the end of that day, we became aware of a perfect funding opportunity available through the Victorian Government’s 2020/2021 Priority Response for Multicultural Communities during Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 2. We were confident we could graft conversational English into a program that would address the grant criteria as well as help this community recover and move forward from some of the difficulties experienced due to COVID.

Working with Naomi, Community Hubs Manager Jenelle Strachan and Cire’s Partnerships and Funding Manager, Sandra Bucovaz, we subsequently submitted a detailed application for funding in late April and crossed our fingers.

Within weeks we were in another lockdown and while completing the final weeks of my placement working from home, Jenelle asked me to fine-tune our proposal further. This would help move things along quickly if our grant application was successful, as well as provide me with invaluable experience in designing a meaningful and thorough program.

These preparations included drafting a parallel program to engage children while their mothers/carers were participating in BEAR, further scoping relevant agencies who could help promote the program or provide advice, and source appropriate recipes if we were crazy enough to try and cook Burmese food.

At the same time, and to deepen my understandings, I completed my own small research paper for TAFE on the effects of COVID on the Chin community.

Whilst still in lockdown, Cire was advised that our application had been successful. I was overjoyed that Cire was going to be able to assist the Chin community which was now extremely distressed due to the situation in Myanmar and the continual impact and uncertainties of COVID, all of which was having a cumulative impact on their mental health and sense of vulnerability.

Having finished my placement hours, I approached Cire to see if I could be involved with the delivery of the program which I had named BEAR.  Thankfully, this became a reality, so the consultation process began almost immediately to ensure delivery by the end of September, as required under the terms of the funding.

We worked through unexpected challenges that caused some initial delays. These included securing community leader permission before advertising any program for the Chin community.  Also, no one joined an information session/ consultation via Zoom. Thankfully they had the wrong date but we had to reschedule, putting us behind by another week.

The community leaders welcomed the initiative and promoted the program through their networks which were hugely beneficial. We also received positive responses from other community groups such as Maroondah Council’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) early childhood network.

In further preparation, Cire engaged Van Cer Hnem as a translator to assist with the delivery of BEAR. Van has done an amazing job promoting the program at her local church and to family and community members and encouraging them to participate.

Then, just as we were about to launch the first of our 10 weekly BEAR sessions, Melbourne was plunged into another lockdown.

Fortunately, restrictions were lifted in time for us to start on our scheduled date of 29 July. To be honest we were not sure whether anyone would show up just two days after the lockdown was lifted and given the restrictions on numbers. However, they did and we were delighted to welcome six women and three gorgeous pre-schoolers.

Cire organised some food from Little Burma which was a treat for us to try, but more importantly, it was something familiar to the women, helping build trust that they were in a safe place.  While the women engaged in BEAR, placement students, Mythilli and Jo, delivered the preschool program with the children creating a koala face and learning how to make fairy bread.

During the session, the women were introduced to formal/informal greetings and how to describe themselves with a positive adjective in English drawing on a list of examples I prepared including caring Cathy and vocal Van. The exercise prompted some giggles.

The women’s English is very limited, so it is great having Van working very hard assisting.

During that first session, we used visual aids to help ascertain what the women would like to learn and how we can best tailor the program to meet their needs. We also gave them each a booklet containing support information and resources such as details of local Burmese doctors and mental health and refugee supports.

As part of the government requirements that we help these women with government health messages, we taught the women how to use the QR code and Van read the current guidelines and restrictions in Hakka Chin ensuring they fully understood.

The women were also very grateful to receive food items from the Chirnside Hub’s community pantry trolley and a pack of Good360 goodies. This also fulfilled Cire’s responsibility to provide material aid, as well as a meal.

The women’s happy faces boosted our confidence that they would continue and also bring others.

It is a privilege to be part of this Cire initiative which will result in many positive outcomes in the coming months.

Cire hosts inspiring NAIDOC Week program

Cire hosted a rich program of events and activities to mark NAIDOC Week 2021, give voice to First Nations People and contribute to healing country by acknowledging how we can take care of the land, the seas, the people and the Country.

Our core services worked together to present the week-long offerings, commencing with an opening Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony at Chirnside Park Community Hub and concluding with a Didgeridoo performance at Mount Evelyn Children’s Centre. Yarra Junction Community hub showcased an exhibition of Indigenous art work and encouraged visitors to participate in creative activities while other sites incorporated NAIDOC Week and its 2021 theme of Heal Country into their learning programs. Some sites offered refreshments featuring Indigenous-inspired food further encouraging people to connect and reflect, share, learn and heal.

People of all ages and backgrounds participated and supported what was on offer supporting showing respect for the past, present and emerging First Nations People, the oldest continuous civilisation in the world dating back some 60,000 years.

NAIDOC Week 2021 was held from 4 to 7 July, during the school holidays and fortunately between lock downs in Victoria. Some of our activities were made possible by special NAIDOC Week funding through the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA)

At Chirnside Park,  Uncle Dave performed a traditional Welcome to Country and Smoking ceremony, Emmy from Warrack Yambo told dream time stories and helped create little echidnas out of sticks and clay, and local Indigenous woman Sandy Mayberry organised a display of beautiful hand-made artwork. Those present then worked together to create a map of Australia with their handprints in the colours of the aboriginal flag to signify unity. The children also played a traditional aboriginal game called Koolchi. Children from Cire’s Out of School Hours Care vacation program also joined in as they were fortunate to attend the Chirnside Park opening event as an excursion.

Yarra Junction Community Hub was transformed into a gallery for the week featuring informative, cultural posters and Indigenous First Nations artwork. Other activities included a display of living native plants that could be touched and researched to see how Indigenous people’s use/d them, colouring activities and worksheets, map and location scouting activities, translation sheets, and a published Indigenous book about our local area. More than 35 people enjoyed a morning tea of wattle seed damper, lemon myrtle biscuits, lemon shortbread, and dairy free/gluten free shortbread.

Mount Evelyn Children’s Centre hosted a special day on the Friday to conclude Cire’s official NAIDOC Week activities. The program included a Welcome to Country by Aunty Kim Wandin, a descendent of the Wurundjeri Tribe, born and raised nearby at Healesville, and with family links to the Corranderk Aboriginal Station in Healesville. Aunty Kim shared her story and pathways to heal her Country and also her history. It was a moving Welcome, in which she shared a gum leaf and by accepting the leaf those present promised to be positive advocates and allies for the First Nations Peoples and help care for their Country.

The Kookaburra children performed their Acknowledgement to Country which they do every day in the Kookaburra Room, but it was a particular honour to do so for Aunty Kim and visiting guests from other Traditional Lands around Australia.

Ganga Giri from Didgeridoo Australia entertained everyone with the Yidaki, (didgeridoo), had everyone up and dancing and creating animals and movements and guessing the sounds he was creating. The children were particularly excited to listen to the vibrations of the Yidaki.

To show Cire’s ongoing commitment to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities, Children’s Services Executive Director, Diletta Lanciana, explained Cire’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which will focus on inclusive and educational programs and practice and building capacity and understanding among educators.

Cire supports many events throughout the year, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram find out what’s on.


Charlie digs deep for community pantry

Donating cash to help stock the community food pantry at Cire’s Yarra Junction Community Hub was a perfect fit for Warburton’s Charlie Pizarro-Gaultier

Charlie digs deep for community pantryCharlie, who owns vintage clothes shops in Warburton and Healesville and is the driving force behind the Warburton Community Opportunity Shop, is always striving to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

When he found himself with surplus vintage stock earlier in the year, and not needed by the op shop, he decided to have a $1 “fire sale” and donate the proceeds to a worthy cause. Aware of the many people doing it tough in the Upper Yarra particularly, he felt donating to the food pantry was a great way to provide support. Not only did the $490 donation directly benefit those in need but it supported Cire, whose values align with Charlie’s. The “fire sale” also helped reduce even more items going into landfill unnecessarily.

“It was a win-win all round’ said Charlie who has a background in social work and lives his life with a broad humanitarian brush through his sharply focused social justice lens.

Charlie digs deep for community pantryHumble about his giving and reluctant to be profiled, Charlie hoped that his donation might help encourage and inspire others. He believes everyone has a responsibility to do their bit and help others where they can, and that businesses have an obligation to contribute in some way.

While his Charley Horse Vintage shops at Warburton and Healesville are doing well, equally important to him is the Warby Community Op Shop. Sales through the shop help support the needs of vulnerable women and others needing a hand up, the local CFA and Upper Yarra Wildlife Refuge.

 “The level of socio-economic disadvantages experienced by many people in the Upper Yarra and the constant risk of homelessness often falls under the radar. It doesn’t take much for people’s circumstances to change dramatically,’” Charlie added.

Charlie hopes to develop the op shop into a hub of support and referral where people have a sense of belonging and connection and can access support and referrals in a welcoming and safe environment. Currently, its main focus is clothing, with any quality donations welcome, with the hope of also expanding to include furniture.

For anyone interested in donating quality clothing, The Warby Community Op Shop, at 3459A Warburton Highway.  Is open Wednesday, Thursday and Saturdays.

Cire’s Community Hub at Yarra Junction also welcomes donations of non-perishable food which can be left at the hub or at reception at our Lilydale office.

Pictured: Cire’s Karina Stone and placement student Jenaya re-stock the pantry at the Yarra Junction Community Hub Karina; Charlie (inset).

Zooming in on over 50s to beat isolation

From fitness to computer classes to accessing services like Telehealth and government sites, to family gatherings and simply checking in, many of Cire’s mature-aged learners are staying connected during COVID thanks to a special digital device loan program.

Without devices of their own, many of these seniors would have been even more isolated and vulnerable but the program and the ongoing support of Cire trainers, has enabled them to venture into a brave new world of connectivity, as well as further develop their overall online confidence and skills.

Cire was fortunate to gain funding through the Federal Government’s Be Connected initiative to roll out the digital device loan program through its learning and training sites at Yarra Junction, Lilydale and Chirnside Park.

“It has been hugely rewarding to be able to support the over 50s in our community with Samsung tablets to help keep them connected with the outside world in the comfort and safety of their own home,’ said Jenelle Strachan, Manager of Cire Community Hubs”.

‘During the pandemic, Zoom has become a household buzz word for connecting people, socially or for education and work.  Equipping our over 50s with devices, skills and confidence to use various platforms to see and connect to their families and friends has been an incredibly powerful tool in helping combat feelings of social isolation and loneliness.’

Cire is part of the Be Connected network, an Australian Government initiative aimed at increasing the confidence, skills and online safety of older Australians in using digital technology. It targets those aged 50 years and over, who have minimal or no engagement with digital technology.

The COVID loan program was in response to a Be Connected survey that revealed that 75% of older learners did not have devices at home and access to the internet which seriously limited their ability to stay in touch with family and friends during social isolation and restriction periods.

Pat - grandmother from Lilydale

Pat – grandmother from Lilydale

One Cire learner, Pat from Lilydale was thrilled to receive her device because she said she could ‘see’ her grandchildren and also keep up her Fit4Life classes that were being delivered virtually by Chirnside Park Community Hub.

Alan, from Cire’s project-based Tech Hub Class where students learn practical and necessary skills for everyday life, was equally thrilled. The loan meant he could continue to access the internet including the Be Connected site to further learn how to operate and perform specific skills based on his own needs, as well as access apps to help him with his spelling.

‘The Be Connected website is the best I have ever used and all the material has been very thoughtfully written and designed with the true user in mind,’ said Alan. Pre-COVID Tech Hub classes used the Be Connected app and students found it very user-friendly with a great blend of videos, quizzes and information.

Philip and Sui who both come from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds agreed that having a device enables them to access Zoom classes and continue with ‘speaking practice and pronunciation. Thank you so much’.

An equally appreciative Tami from Cire’s Reconnect program said it has been a real confidence booster being able to ‘play around’ with the device to learn how to use it and safely.

Pictured above
Cire trainer Rowan Barr with Alan and Naomi Taylor, Cire Community Hubs Coordinator


Welcome to Term 3 – Yarra Junction Community Hub

Welcome to issue #8 of OurHub term 3 Guide. As you can see we’ve moved to an online version for Term 3. Don’t worry the much loved printed version will be back for Term 4, and we will also continue to deliver this online for those of you who prefer to check out what’s on offer on your phone or tablet (it’s even better for our beloved planet).

What a whirlwind the last three months have been for not only for our community but for all communities worldwide. We have had to learn to adapt to many changes in our day-to-day routines with everything but essential services closed. For me, these changes meant that I had to adapt to working from home, homeschooling four children and being thrown into the world of virtual meetings and catch-ups. Reflecting on the past few months, I am really grateful for the experience as it has given me the opportunity to spend quality time with my family, enjoy a slower pace of life and gain the confidence that I can adapt to any situation and come out stronger.

We closed the Hubs on 23rd March and I was very unsure of how I was going to support the community and provide courses and programs, without being able to deliver them in the centre. I am very grateful for my amazing team and together we kept coming up with innovative ideas to support the community. Our Fit 4 Life program was the first to be delivered via Zoom and with the members that did not have access to technology, we sent them an exercise DVD and exercise information sheets. We connected our Wednesday morning craft group together on Zoom, and despite some technical challenges, with patience and persistence, we got there in the end. The weekly catch-ups have kept the ladies feeling connected during this isolating time.

We launched Friday Night Live, a program created by our placement students from Box Hill Institute of TAFE, welcomed guest speakers each week and incorporated a question and answer section at the end. Guest speakers included Patrick Boucher and Danny Field from Yarra Ranges TV, David Shepard a Tai Chi instructor, and Emily Webbers, an Indigenous educator.

Two weeks before closed our Hubs, we welcomed Naomi to our team as the Chirnside Park Community Hub Coordinator (pictured above left). You may have already seen her on our weekly Cuppa and Chat sessions on our Facebook page, where she has kept us updated with what is going on at the Hubs. Naomi started the hugely successful Lock Down Lego Challenge on Facebook, reaching around 800 members. The group was created and new challenges were set up daily to engage families to get creative and build Lego. Due to the success of this group we are excited to be launching our Lego Group at both our hubs.

Level Up is unlikely to return to the Hubs in Term 3, or while limits on social gatherings are still in place. Level Up is extremely important for our young people however, we do not want to create a situation where some young people may need to be excluded from our programs. We are eager for Level Up to return as soon as we are able to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all. Gamers Lounge transitioned to an online format in May and will continue to do so for Term 3. Those interested in becoming involved can do so by joining our Facebook group.

We have our Centre link access point for the community to use during our operating hours. You can access the following services to use the internet, get brochures and fact sheets, use the phone claiming service, reply paid Medicare envelopes, scan, copy, print and upload documents and verify identity documents.

We look forward to welcoming you back to our Hub and as always, please feel free to stop in for a cuppa and chat and let us know what you would like to see in our programming.

If you would like to subscribe simply click the Sign Up! button above.

Enjoy OurHubs online
Jenelle Strachan – Manager – Cire Community Hubs


Engaging the Community through Social Media

The response to the COVID-19 outbreak has created many changes in the tertiary education space. Students have rapidly transitioned to remote learning, while institutions worked to set up virtual classrooms and upskill their training staff. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for students during the transition has been attempting to complete their work placements in the Community Sector when most organisations have sent the workforce home. Indeed, the prospect of completing placement on time has been grim for some. However, for the students doing placement at Cire Training and Hubs, the experience has been quite different thanks to their ability to adapt to the changing landscape of community need.

As with many organisations, Cire Training and Hubs shifted a number of its services to online delivery and offered social and educational programs via Zoom or social media. The transition to this medium provided an opportunity for placement students to engage with the community in a new and exciting way. A handful of students jumped on board with the experimental venture and produced a “Social Isolation Survival Guide” filled with activities and information on personal wellbeing. The survival guide was distributed as a free resource to dozens of organisations and community groups with hospitals, early childhood education centres and schools among those who provided their clients with the guides, receiving an astoundingly positive response.

Following on from the success of the survival guide, students were eager to set up a program consisting of community interaction and engagement. After many planning sessions and Trello cards filled with ideas, the group came up with the concept of running an evening Zoom session for the community with special guest speakers. The name of this project was “Friday Night Live” and after a number of sessions, it became a hit with guests ranging from Pat Boucher from Yarra Ranges Life TV to Neal Taylor, CEO of Holy Fools. The program gave members of the community an opportunity to log on and ask the special guests questions and discover ways to become involved in their community.

The placement students have expressed the value they have found in learning how to deliver community programs in an online format. The process of adapting to new ways of doing things alongside our staff has helped immerse the students in what it is like to work in the community services sector. Furthermore, the ideas they have developed and the projects they have implemented have served ongoing needs within our community in a fun and inventive way. The possibility of delivering an online placement would not have been possible Box Hill Institute’s trust and support in the placement program at Cire Training and Hubs. For our students, this may have been an unusual placement, but they have risen to the challenge and delivered amazing results. Thank you!

Jarred Kellerman – Business Support Manager  – Training & Hubs

Trivia hits the spot at Chirnside Park

Despite the wintry conditions outside, it didn’t take long for the inside temperature to rise as excitement gained momentum for a trivia night at Chirnside Park Community Hub on Saturday 25 May.

More than 50 people braved the cold, wet weather for a fun night of trivia and related antics which resulted in $1400 raised to purchase a barbeque and outdoor furniture for the hub

The trivia included many entertaining rounds focusing on pop culture, both new and more nostalgic, as well as some sport and general knowledge thrown in for good measure and to ensure there were questions for everyone. A particularly memorable movie question included an impromptu dance competition to the Blues Brothers soundtrack – definitely a sight to behold!

Silent auctions, raffles and lucky seat prizes meant that no one needed to go home empty-handed.

Executive Manager of Cire Community Hubs, Laura Shortis, described the event as a ‘fantastic’ success.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for staff, their friends and family and members of the community to come together and join in a light-hearted evening of entertainment,” Laura said.

Cire Services thanks all those who attended, as well as acknowledges the very generous donations received from local businesses to support the silent auction held throughout the night.

The community hubs team plans to make this an annual event – so look out for information early next year for the 2020 Cire Services Trivia Night!

Cire’s community hubs are one of our core areas of operation.

The hubs at Yarra Junction and Chirnside Park aim to empower people of all ages to learn, connect and belong. They are friendly, vibrant and inclusive offering an extensive range of services, education and leisure programs and community development activities that reflect community needs and interests. Programs include parenting education, environment education, health and wellbeing support activities, and craft and hobby tuition.
We are an active member of Neighbourhood Houses Victoria (NHV) and the Community Houses Association of the Outer Eastern Suburbs (CHAOS).

Cire’s other core areas of focus are:

Cire Community School. Our co-educational independent secondary school catering for young people who have experienced difficulty with mainstream schooling. We have pioneered successful and flexible programs to meet the needs of our students and work tirelessly to make our school one of choice. We provide quality education and personal development opportunities that are hands-on, and relevant in order to engage our students in their secondary education and life beyond school.

Cire Children’s Services. Children’s Services operates across multiple sites and focuses on the needs of families within our community. We provide long day care with an integrated kindergarten program); outside school hours care, vacation care and occasional care and several playgroups

Cire Training, our Registered Training Organisation (RTO). Cire Training offers nationally recognised and accredited and short courses, to help meet the diverse and changing needs of our community and facilitate greater inclusion. From short courses, work skills accredited units of competency to accredited training, our programs are both non accredited and accredited and have helped many people to upskill and achieve their aspirations and career goals.

If you cook it – they will come

Cire’s community hubs are putting on a Moveable Feast to celebrate Neighbourhood House Week, I was told. Breakfast at Yarra Junction, dinner at Chirnside Park. The premise was quite simple; to invite people in the community to come along and enjoy a free meal.  In the days leading up to the Moveable Feast I focussed on the specifics such as what we would be cooking and how we’d get the word out about what we were doing, and how we’d set up the spaces.  I was anxious that we would over cater and end up with too much food left over or worse, that we’d run out of food.

Quite new to my role at Executive Manager of Cire Community Hubs, and getting my head around all that entails, I didn’t have much time to consider much else about the upcoming feast. My amazing team at both hubs worked hard to pull it all together and I fronted up on the morning at Yarra Junction ready to serve egg and bacon rolls. And, as we fired up the barbecue and the smell of sizzling bacon wafted through the main drag of Yarra Junction, I began to see what we were actually doing.

That morning, we served 30 egg and bacon rolls in the hour we were cooking.  While some people came because they knew what was happening, the majority happened to be in the right place at a great time to be offered complimentary, hot and delicious breakfast.  Perhaps we saved some people from having to spend money on breakfast that morning, or an opportunity to grab something to eat because they’d forgotten to grab something as they rushed out the door that morning.

The unexpected bonus for me was the interactions – sometimes fleeting, sometimes more in depth, but equally valuable. It was a chance to meet and chat to people about the types of courses they’d like Cire to offer, or why we were doing what we were doing and share a bit about Neighbourhood House Week.  Seeing people smile as our CEO ran up to cars stopped at the traffic lights to offer a breakfast roll through their car window, or getting to pat a sweet little dog called Maverick who also loved bacon – it was an extra ordinary morning for us, for Maverick, and most definitely for those who received breakfast while waiting for the green light!

Fast forward to dinnertime when we were cooking the most giant pot of spaghetti bolognese I’ve ever seen, I worried that people wouldn’t come.  Our Chirnside Park Community Hub is a little off the main road which meant there would be very few people to invite to join us. We were relying on people to leave the warmth of their homes on this cold night and let us cook them dinner.

I had no reason to worry. From 6pm people started trickling in and by 6:30 we were churning out bowls of pasta at an impressive rate.  Again, I could see the immediate impact and how we were able to give families a night off from cooking, and an escape from the inevitable, “What’s for dinner?”. There was lots of chatter as old friends caught up and new introductions made over a shared meal.

And, at the end of what was quite a long day and while tackling the piles of dishes that result from feeding so many people, I reflected on what the day meant and had achieved. The departing comment from one of our dinner guests nailed it: “I was having a bad day so I came along for some company.  And I’m leaving with a full stomach and a smile on my face”.

My worries about what we should cook, how much food we should buy, would we get enough people through the doors suddenly all seemed so trivial. The fact that at least one person had been impacted positively made the day so worthwhile, and makes me want to do it all over again.

Laura Shortis,
Executive Manager, Cire Community Hubs