16 February 2023

Caffeine boost for community connections in Batemans Bay

| Zoe Cartwright
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Batemans Bay Coffee Morning Group

The first Batemans Bay Coffee Morning Group meeting on Monday, 13 February. Photo: Supplied.

How do you build community support for those who need it most?

A place for everyone to gather is a good start – and for years Batemans Bay has lacked a Neighbourhood Centre, where newcomers can build connections in a safe environment.

Never fear, community connector Jan Frikken is on the case.

This week she launched the Batemans Bay Coffee Morning Group with the support of Cel Desabella and Nicole Okimura.

Complementing her successful dinner group, the aim is to bring people together to make friends, share ideas, and chat about issues important to them.

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“A Neighbourhood Centre can become the living ‘heart’ of the community, and it’s something I really believe we need in Batemans Bay,” she said.

“People need a place where everyone is welcome and comfortable to build relationships.

“The dinner group highlighted the social isolation members of our community are facing.

“A vibrant and caring Neighbourhood Centre could provide connections through activities including education and training, language classes, cooking classes, and craft groups.

“People who utilise the centre are also able to get help and support from government and non-government organisations.”

Ms Desabella’s own experiences led to her involvement in the coffee group.

When she first moved to Batemans Bay, she had no family nearby to offer support.

Luckily, she had a good friend to rely on – but it made her realise others weren’t so fortunate.

“When I found myself in a situation needing help and advice, I was fortunate to have a friend who could help me,” she said.

“I know others have times they need similar support, but don’t have the local relationships to turn to.”

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Ms Okimura is a social work student and understands the difficulty of finding community again and making friends as an adult, after moving back to her hometown after 20 years abroad.

She also believes in the power of regular catch-ups, such as a meal or a cuppa, in building the kind of relationships that help us all weather life’s storms.

Ms Frikken hopes that if the coffee group generates enough interest it will provide a firm footing on which to apply for government funding to go towards a dedicated Neighbourhood Centre in Batemans Bay.

A similar centre in Coffs Harbour provides a wide range of support for the community, from family-oriented activities to help with taxes, legal aid, and food and emergency relief.

It also provides low-cost meeting rooms and space for groups to support migrants, those struggling with addiction, abuse survivors and carers.

The Batemans Bay Community Centre, which is owned by the Eurobodalla Shire Council, has been leased to Headspace Australia since 2021.

The weekly coffee meet-ups are held on Mondays from 10 am to midday at the NBN Hub, 3 Clyde Street, Batemans Bay.

Tea and coffee are provided, but community members are asked to bring something to share and a gold coin donation.

RSVP by SMS to Ms Okimura on 0476 809 030.

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