Budding photographers who attended a series of courses in Weber, 28km southwest of Dannevirke, not only had a chance to upskill, but also had a valuable opportunity to connect with other locals.
The courses were part of a Tararua REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) initiative to boost wellbeing and other support services that received a grant from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) complementary services fund.
"We have been focusing on what resources and skills already exist within our communities and building on these," said Tararua REAP general manager Claire Chapman.
"Rather than try to do the same old thing, we are trying something new. We’ve brought on board three Rural Connectors who link people with support services and foster local initiatives."
The project received a grant of $30,000 to build on wellbeing support services and resources that are already available.
"There are some gaps in the support that remote rural communities can access, so initiatives like this play an important role." said MPI's director of Rural Communities and Farming Support Nick Story.
"We want to see new wellbeing initiatives and extend the reach of services to help improve the mental wellbeing of rural people. The success of New Zealand’s primary sector hinges on having strong, vibrant and sustainable rural communities."
Three community connectors have been appointed across the district to act as connectors. They are Ella Domper from Norsewood, Vicky Tomlinson from Woodville, and Trudy Hales from Weber.
"Our Rural Connectors are already well-known in their local community, so they’ve got a head-start when it comes to making connections. They’re go to people who get things done." Claire Chapman said.
REAP's Rural Connectors, who started last August, offer free, confidential, and non-judgmental guidance. The aim is to reduce barriers that prevent people taking up services.
The photography courses in Weber are an example of the kind of things that are being supported. Other activities have included organising first aid courses in Woodville, a regular kai and kōrero gathering in Norsewood, and one-to-one support for people getting vaccine passes in both Weber and Woodville.
Last Saturday a fifth photography course was run by Vicky O'Connor. After the local photographer was repeatedly asked about camera basics, she decided offering courses was the best way to go. She also wanted to do something that would bring people together.
"The pandemic has meant people haven't been connecting as much as they used to. I wanted to change this. The courses were a chance to bring people together." Vicky O’Connor said.
"I always tell everyone coming along to a workshop that photography can be a creative escape. It provides a way to reconnect with ourselves and the beauty in the world around us."
Over coming months, the Rural Connectors will continue to build on what is happening across the Tararua district.