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Cassie Welch: 'The church has a lot to offer'

“It’s really valuable to keep having fun,” says 25-year-old Cassie Welch.

“It’s easy to get worn down with all the stress people are dealing with day to day and you forget to go out and enjoy yourself a little bit.”

Welch isn’t talking about heading to the pub, but balloon twisters, bouncy castles and face painting.

A CERA Summer of Fun coordinator, Welch spent the last summer working with local Methodist and Anglican churches and the YMCA to run 29 community events across the city for local neighbourhoods and families.

It was a dream job, she says.

“Basically you get to go to parties all summer; it’s great. And we worked with amazing people as well.”


Welch came to the job after helping to set up a community garden and running the Bryndwr Street Party for the last two years.

She says the earthquakes have provided an opportunity to create better community connectedness and strong neighbourly bonds by bringing people together and “creating excuses for different people to mingle and meet”.

“Otherwise we often stay behind our fences. I see events as ways of giving people excuses to meet.”

For the Summer of Fun, she collaborated with church parishes to recreate street party after street party. The aim was to harness the resources and connections of small parishes to bring communities closer together.

“It was about building local community networks. The church has a lot to offer in terms of resource and space,” she says.

“You know people feel a bit weird about going onto church land, but if they can get hooked into the playgroup or whatever it just means that you’re building that connectedness at a local level.”

Every weekend, between December and March, Welch and her co-coordinator Emma Whitla worked alongside committees from different churches to create a plan for each Summer of Fun event.

No two fun days were the same. Some churches opted for old-fashioned events like egg and spoon races and apple bobbing, others had live bands and archery classes. Some attracted hundreds of visitors, others were smaller.

Regardless of size, each event was a success in its own right, Welch says.

“It’s kind of how you measure success. You can measure it in terms of loads of people came, or you can measure it in terms of really meaningful connections established.”

Each event had a small budget, and Welch says it was great to see how such modest funds could seed such successful events.

“It was amazing how a little could go such a long way,” she says. “For most of those events we had $400 to $500, and it created a really great atmosphere and was a lot of fun.”


Welch hopes that churches will continue to host community events.

“It was a really successful summer in terms of getting loads of events happening, but also just building the confidence of those different churches, so they can feel able to host more events in the future.”

“Churches are in a great position to support their local communities – they have access to resources and they have spaces that aren’t often as well utilised as they could be, so it’s ideal really.”

Welch is now working as a full-time community development coordinator for the Methodist Mission and Presbyterian Support. She is passionate about linking people together and continuing to create strong community relationships in post-quake Christchurch.

“In earlier times there was a lot more neighbourliness; there weren’t walls and fences. The earthquakes have given us the impetus to rediscover this in Christchurch.”

_As told to Georgia Nelson

This story is part of a UC Journalism project to trial a new form of community journalism by recording and sharing people’s everyday stories about the Canterbury earthquakes and recovery. You can read more about the Connecting our Stories project here.