What the community wants – listening to hopes and concerns
Twelve months ago, I started in this role bright-eyed and completely naïve to the complexities and challenges of urban redevelopment. Greeted with welcoming curiosity and just the right amount of scepticism, I have spent the last year listening to and learning from local residents, business owners and service providers about what makes Waterloo tick.
Stories from long-term residents took me down memory lane as they detailed the different delis, newsagents and chemists that have occupied Waterloo’s streets over the decades.
Matavai residents recalled days when the community room was filled with piano music and dancing. Newly arrived tenants explaining how relieved they are to live in a community where everyone is welcoming and smiles when you walk down the street. The more stories I heard, the more I understood what a unique and inspiring place I found myself working in.
In addition to recollections from the past, residents shared their concerns and hopes for the future. For many, it was the fear of the unknown, “when will I move and will I be able to stay close by?” For others, the concern extended to the impact on the wider community “how do we ensure those most marginalised are the least impacted” and “will everyone be treated with equal consideration?”
As someone who wants to solve every situation, I found many of these questions challenging, as for the most part, they were unanswerable. However, it was my role to listen and often nothing more.
And so, I want to thank the people of Waterloo for welcoming a naïve community development worker into your community. Thank you for sharing your stories, your concerns and your hopes. Thank you for showing me what true diversity, inclusivity and resilience look like. And most of all, thank you for teaching me to listen – a skill I thought I had but have evidently had to refine over the past year.
I will continue to follow the journey of the Waterloo community as it develops, knowing that while you may face significant challenges, you will overcome them with a united front and welcoming smile to anyone who walks down the street.