Why it's important to Give Local

Some problems can’t be solved with love nor money, and the disappearance of a treasured pet cat in a Melbourne suburb is one such conundrum.

Amy Churchouse lived in Kensington, she had begun a new career as a vet and was struggling when her cat Bear didn’t make his way home. Amy just wanted the neighbourhood’s “eyes” to track down her cat. Chances were, someone in Kensington knew exactly where Bear was.

It struck Amy that there was not a particularly efficient nor effective way to contact someone who might know. And so, she made one.

From that, the Kensington Good Karma Network was born, guided by the ethos of giving in response to need.

The initiative - and others like it - might just be the antidote to the common fear that we are losing our sense of community and becoming increasingly disconnected.

We often hear that ‘things aren’t like they use to be’ when everyone knew their neighbours and could pop over for a cup of tea. What we see far less often is this narrative being changed, and a sense of community being actively nurtured.

There are now 39 Good Karma networks across Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, and South Australia. The Networks are working to “normalise asking for help” by connecting local people with a need, to local solutions.

Sometimes this might just be some kind advice. “We have so much more than stuff and things,” Amy stresses.

“Connection gives you access to everything.”

The benefits to the neighbourhood have been plentiful. Kensington locals have told Amy that they “don’t know what [they] use to do before the Good Karma Network” and that they “swear people are more friendly on the street [now]”.

“There are so many benefits and it does go community wide,” Amy says. Afterall, “when you help somebody, you feel valuable”. In that spirit, giving to your neighbour is also giving to yourself.

Hugh Mackay, renown Australian psychologist and sociologist, supports these ideas which Good Karma Network built on. He wrote in The Conversation that when we lose sight of our role as neighbours, the health of the neighbourhood suffers”, then “we all suffer”.

According to Hugh, “anxiety is likely to rise” when we fail to accept our “biological destiny”. We depend on each other, belong to one another, and “rely on communities”, and doing so is of benefit to everyone, Hugh says.

The COVID-19 pandemic - like any crisis - has given people a reason to be generous, Amy says. The pandemic has led to an uptick of Good Karma Network members.

As we participate in giving local on May 12th, let us all consider how to best care for our community going forward.

Amy’s advice that “the best way to be able to help people is to find out what they need” seems like a promising place to start.