New lease of life for Neighbourhood Centre

Ven Andrews and Sharon Parker can’t wait for people to come down and discover the revamped North Kiama Neighbourhood Centre.

With 25 years’ experience in community development behind her, and the support of Sharon (the Centre’s long term manager), Ven has creatively used Federal funding to assist the unemployed in her charge to revitalise the community hub.

With the two and a half year project ending in April, all of the work at the Centre has been finished, and Ven and Sharon are ready to show it off.

While people are welcome to visit any time, the duo  are planning an Open Day to encourage as many as possible to come along and see what a great community asset it is.

“The Centre was doing great work but looking a bit ordinary when we started,” says Ven. “It is now bright and painted, and everything outside has been rebuilt.”

The lighthouse themed bollards at its entrance give a hint of the element of fun Ven’s team of unemployed volunteers (she hates the term Work for the Dole)
has built into every corner of the Centre.

There’s a playgroup area, with murals by local artist Mark Svensson; a pretend kitchen and veggie patch for the children to tend; an outdoor chess set; a sculpture garden featuring local native plants; and raised garden beds just waiting for the community to come and help tend them.

“All of this is a bonus,” says Ven. “It has been so rewarding to see so many people move forward.

“These programs sometimes have a stigma about them, but this project shows that it doesn’t have to be like that,” says Ven. “Our unemployed volunteers have thrived on having a real project to do, and can be proud about the legacy they have created that can be enjoyed by the whole community.

“I’ve met some fantastic unemployed people some with brilliant skills learnt over a lifetime of work, and it has been great to see them mentoring the young ones.

“As well as giving them skills like carpentry, landscaping, creative arts and painting, we’ve helped to give them a sense of purpose by supporting them in a time of need.

“The program has been really successful in terms of people getting jobs or starting their own small businesses when they have left.”

For the next six months of the project, Ven and crew will turn their focus to refreshing the nearby skateboard park and the baseball nets.

The North Kiama Neighhood Centre Inc was founded in 1982 and has been based in Council-owned premises on Meehan Drive since 1996.

It provides a home for activities as diverse as U3A, Probus, yoga, gardening clubs, commercial cooking, craft groups and more.

Details: The Centre is open 8.30-4pm Mon to Thurs.  The Open Day will be held 27 November, 10-2pm.

Location: 28A Meehan Drive


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