Recently I posted 12 tips for happiness. Today I want to share with you the one thing I do every week, aside from things with family and friends that brings me joy. I get excited about this every week and I’ve been doing it for a few months now…
Going to Ainslie Village.
If you’re from Canberra, you would know this is one of the roughest places to go. It’s full of drunks, drug abusers, violence and horrible people on low incomes/welfare because the whole place is just a housing village.
And you’d be WRONG!
Ainslie Village is community housing, so that part is correct. It is run by Argyle, but it is no longer the rough place it used to be. I’ve been going every week for a few months now and I love it.
I play chess, I cut hair, I hang out and chat with people. I have had a rough year and really struggle emotionally at many times. It doesn’t seem to matter how crap I feel of a Thursday or Friday morning, as soon as I get to the village I am greeted warmly, I have wonderful conversations and leave there feeling so much better than I did when I arrived.
Everyone I have had the pleasure of meeting has been really nice, friendly, helpful and fascinating. The life stories vary so much, and to hear about everyone’s week, what they have been doing, goals and things they are working on, past memories gives me a lot of joy. I feel blessed that they share their life with me.
I still have people telling me how dangerous it is and how they don’t want me going there. About a month ago I needed to pick up some flyers for an event I was helping with. I took my 4yr old daughter along with me. Would I do that with somewhere I felt we were in danger? Everyone said hello to her and told her how pretty she looked (she was wearing her Snow White dress).
Danger is everywhere. I lived in Western Sydney and it was bad, the reputation it has is deserved. Unlike Ainslie Village has improved so much. The manager has been working hard to make it a safe, enjoyable place for people to live.
It is so easy for us to judge and make assumptions about a person based on where they live. I know for the residents of Ainslie Village they are judged to be violent, alcoholic, druggie criminals. I won’t deny there are people there who have committed crimes, or drink, or whatever, but you can find that everywhere, it is socially expected to have a drink, most people illegally download moves and music – that’s a crime! So more than likely 90% of the people you see day to day are criminals who drink.
It’s interesting to see people’s perceptions of a place based on what they think they know.
This week the reputation of the village started to get to me. It is somewhere I look forward to going every week. I have a blast there and everyone is so nice. As for people considering it to be rough and the people who live there to be a danger, this is my experience:
They apologise if they swear in front of me. I thought this was really sweet. Just last week a few guys were talking while I was playing chess with someone else. One of them said a swear word then saw me and immediately covered his mouth and apologised. I did not expect that. They were having a private conversation, so it’s not like it was aimed at me, but he was really sorry for swearing around me. Admittedly, not everyone is this way but a large portion of the guys there have done this or pulled their friends up for swearing around me, without me ever saying anything!
They are extremely grateful. The attitude of gratitude, something I try to encourage everyone to have, is something I have noticed a lot of at the village. They really appreciate anything you do.
They are protective. They are protective of each other, each other’s things, their homes and people who come to visit. They look out for each other, let each other know what’s going on and stand up for their mates. Being protective and loyal are important traits, in my opinion.
They are friendly. Everyone always says hello, asks how I am and offers help. I had a photo shoot there for City News on Thursday. When the photographer arrived he was immediately greeted by some residents who showed him where I would be.
So many people I know have been apprehensive about going to Ainslie Village, but once they get there are pleasantly surprised by how friendly and easy going the place really is, nothing like it’s reputation.
I often get asked how to help people, especially those who are homeless or on low incomes. I have given various ideas here (based on personal experience) and also listed help available to those who need it here, but the biggest thing I think we can all do is…
Unless you have lived there or spent time there, you don’t really know what a place is like. Yes, we can all research and yes reputations can be accurate at times, but when it comes to people, don’t judge.
Look with a view of learning instead of how much better you are or what you can teach someone in a less than favourable position. What can you learn from them? Because until you know their story or know their issues, you can’t just waltz in to ‘fix’ everything.
Listen. This goes for everyone, everywhere. If you ask someone how they are, be genuine about it, listen to their answer – not just the words but also body language and tone. Listen to what people are saying around you, what is happening and pay proper attention. We have 2 ears and one mouth, use them accordingly.
I know some of my posts of late have not been as financially based as they used to and that’s because I want to share more of my life and things I am passionate about. I believe by being more aware of issues around us we are in a better position to improve society, which in turn does have an affect on our finances.
What are your thoughts on housing? Do you volunteer anywhere? What things do you think need to change or should we change about what we do and think when it comes to low-income housing and the people who live there?