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Finding your sense of belonging

When you move to a new town, how long does it take until you start to feel like you belong? Is it when people recognise you in the street and say ‘hello’? Is it when you can find your way around town without a map, know the best place to grab a coffee or you’ve unpacked all those boxes? I remember inviting new friends to my new home in NZ for the first time, and the sense of belonging and connection from visiting these friends in their homes and arranging to meet them socially.

According to census figures, over 20% of people living in Nelson are from overseas. Add to that the number of people who have chosen to call Nelson home from elsewhere in Aotearoa, that’s a lot of Newcomers.

The Nelson Newcomers Network caters for anyone who’s been in Nelson less than two years – no matter where they’ve come from. The Network runs a monthly Coffee & Connections group – a chance to meet other Newcomers, make friends and get connected. There are representatives from Volunteer Nelson and Citizens Advice and sometimes Nelson Multicultural Council too. These organisations have a wealth of information to help you get settled. There are occasional events, and you may also see the Newcomers flag at community events as a place for Newcomers to gather and make friends.

The Nelson Newcomers Network is entirely run by volunteers – people who are or were once new to Nelson, or have a wealth of information and advice they are willing to share. Check out their Facebook page for events and information.

My journey to making Nelson home began in 2005 when I was fresh off the plane from the UK. After a week spent pounding the streets with map in hand, I felt like the holiday was over and I was ready to call Nelson ‘home’. But where do you start? My first stop was Volunteer Nelson where I registered as a volunteer whilst I looked for paid work. I was connected up to several organisations where I made new friends, took up new hobbies, joined local groups, started socialising and generally began to feel at home. Once I found paid employment I continued volunteering as I didn’t want to loose that sense of being part of a wider community.

With the recent Mental Health Awareness Week, you’ll hopefully have heard about the Five Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Give, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Be Active) – Volunteering ticks all five, in one go! If you are looking for ways to connect with your local community – check out Volunteer Nelson’s website.  Sign In in the top right corner, register, browse the roles available, and refer yourself to share some of your awesomness with others. All organisations registered with Volunteer Nelson are not-for-profit’s and they need you.

Volunteer Nelson and Nelson Newcomers Network are here to help you take those first steps.

Jane Solly
Volunteer Nelson

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