Cindy Watters is The Salvation Army’s first ‘mission in place coordinator’, living and working among community housing developments in Hornby, Christchurch.
We have three parts to the street: 10 houses overseen jointly by Housing New Zealand, The Housing Foundation and The Salvation Army; Abbeyfields for retirees who want to be in a community; and rent to buy houses for low income earners. There’s about 35 or 40 people, but that’s growing.
My job is to build relationships and a close community atmosphere.
I have volunteered with the Army on and off for 30 years and I worked in market research until three years ago.
I was getting sicker and sicker and no one knew why. I was diagnosed three years ago with Hepatitis C that I got from a blood transfusion 30 years ago. I got into an experimental drug trial and within two months the Hep C virus was gone. The doctors wrote on my file that it was a miracle, because there was no way the drugs could have worked in that time.
I volunteer at Hornby Community Ministries and run a craft group showing men and women how to repair clothes. We make blankets and cot sheets for the hospital neo-natal unit and do repairs for the Family Store.
On the street I try to visit everyone regularly and if they have a need they come and talk to me. We run street barbecues and did carol singing at Christmas. At each house after we sang they joined us to go on to the others round the street. We finished by singing at Abbeyfields—it was so much fun.
We’re already building links with people in nearby streets. Some have been invited by people in the street to events, which is good because we want to welcome the community in.
I started a mums and babies’ group and I’d like to start other programmes, but its listening and finding the needs first. We want people to up-skill to a level where they become independent of this place.
Some folk here come from really disadvantaged backgrounds and have tried to struggle through. To see the changes in them now, see the pain lines disappear from their face and see them smiling and happy, is amazing!
We had a barbecue here—one person came from a horrible area and they sat here quiet and withdrawn. Two, three months later, they were chatting and smiling. The kids next door never talked with anyone, now their parent is asking what we did because they talk with us.
We have one young mum who’s very, very shy. She’s just started coming to the mums and babies’ group. To have her come with people she doesn’t know and accept that’s where she wants to be is a big step. It doesn’t seem big, but it’s growth.
None of these people have monetary wealth, but no matter their background I believe they’re as important to God as I am.
By Cindy Watters (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 14 May 2016, pp 9
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