How to be a Neighbourhood Champion

What if Sunday mornings saw neighbours chatting over fences, and families picnicking in the local park? What if you really could knock on your neighbours door for sugar, or rely on a friendly phone call if your dog got out? And what if you were the one to spark this neighbourhood revolution? As we celebrate  Good Neighbour Day on 28 September, we bring you a few ideas on how you can becomeHere’s how to become a community champion and make your neighbourhood the envy of all others.

Start a community garden
This may sound daunting but public green spaces are a great way of building a sense of community and neighbourhood pride. You will need a small plot of vacant civil land and permission from the municipality to use it. (There are plenty of spaces when you start to look but don’t assume you can takeover a piece of land without approval, or you may return to find your beautiful garden demolished!)

Then you’ll want to get as many of your neighbours involved as possible. Post flyers with information on the project and a contact email address in all surrounding mailboxes. Ask for donations of plants, compost, and gardening equipment. You’ll be surprised at what people have sitting in their sheds that can be used. Next, set up times (say every second Saturday morning) when those who are interested can help you plant and maintain the garden.

It may take a bit of initial effort from you but after a while it will hopefully become a communal project that’ll bring people together, as they watch the garden flourish.

Create a babysitter list
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a babysitter living down your street? Suddenly, date nights wouldn’t require panicked phone calls to friends and family on the other end of town. Well, the chances are there is a babysitter living down your street or around the corner, you’ve just never met her.

Ask around, put a notice on a community board or post letters in mailboxes for potential babysitters in the area. When you get a response, you can set up a time to interview and screen the babysitter. And if they pass your inspection, you can add them to a neighbourhood babysitting list to send out to all your other neighbours with kids.

So the next time you want to see a movie or have a quiet dinner out, help could be only a few doors down.

Plan a community cleanup
Instead of complaining about graffiti, litter and untidy curbs in your neighbourhood, why don’t you organise a clean up that actually does something about it? If you have children this is a great way to show them how to give back to the community, and it may even teach you a thing or two!

The thought of picking up litter on a Saturday is unlikely to get many people excited, but free donuts and coffee might do the trick. Set up a table outside your house with yummy post-clean up refreshments. The catch? You have to help out to qualify for a treat!

You could even get shirts made with a cheesy neighbourhood team slogan. Slightly embarrassing but effective.

Write to your city council member
Did you know that for every area in your city there is someone allocated to represent your concerns to the city council? If you haven’t received a notice of who this person is, contact your municipality to find out. And then the next time there is an issue in your neighbourhood, you’ll know who to call! From fixing potholes to repairing street lights, they could become your new best friend.

Welcome new neighbours
Moving to a new neighbourhood can be a big and sometimes scary change, especially when you don’t know anyone or are unfamiliar with the area. But that’s where your friendly ‘Neighbourhood Champion’ can come to the rescue!

Make a point of introducing yourself to new neighbours or inviting them over for drinks. Offer them advice on where to drop off recycling, which are the good restaurants in the area, and let them in on any secret spots only the locals know about. This may seem like a small thing to do but it’ll go a long way towards creating a sense of openness and acceptance in your community.

Set up a recycling roster
We all know the importance of recycling but when it comes down to it, how many of us actually have the time to do it? Instead of feeling guilty every time you toss your recyclables in the trash, or looking down on your non-recycling neighbours as you sort your glass from your paper, strike up a deal with a local recycling company. Ask them for a discounted rate if you get a certain number of people in your neighbourhood to sign up for their service.

There are probably plenty of your neighbours who have been meaning to recycle but have never got around to organising a collection service. Or if you’re concerned your neighbours may baulk at the small monthly fee, another option is to get collection bins installed in your area to make for an easier drop off point.

If you do just one of these, you’re fast on your way to becoming a ‘Neighbourhood Champion’. Do two and we may just have to give you an award! And this is only the start. There are plenty more creative ways you can help uplift your neighbourhood. Have some other ideas? Share them with us on Facebook using the hashtag #neighbourhoodchampion! 

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