This month’s Good Neighbor Spotlight highlights a neighbor Down Under who is demonstrating incredible mateship by bringing neighbors together and building community. Meet Cheryl Bigeni of Randwick, New South Wales, Australia. Cheryl recently posted on Nextdoor to invite her neighbors to meet for a cuppa (that’s a cup of joe) and chat. The response from neighbors on Nextdoor was inspiring. Cheryl was hoping to meet a few new friends, and ended up finding community.
We spoke with Cheryl to learn more about what community means to her and how she has built friendships with neighbors nearby. Read our Q&A with her below!
What happened after you posted on Nextdoor asking if anyone wanted to meet?
The response to my first post was amazing, with more than 100 responses and comments, and lots of welcomes and thank you messages. The first coffee gathering was held in beautiful Centennial Park. For a late afternoon coffee on a weekend, the location was perfect. The park has a caravan that sells food, coffee, ice cream, and beside the caravan is an area with a picnic table, which gave room for however many would turn up.
As people arrived, one by one, we chatted, laughed, everyone was so happy to be meeting people in the same age group and under such a casual environment. We talked about how long we had lived in the area, which neighborhoods we lived in, our work, our children, travel. One lady lived really close to me, so we exchanged numbers.
After two hours, a storm looked imminent, so we started to say our goodbyes. I was passed so many thank yous it was a little overwhelming, and promised another meetup down the track.
Have you stayed in touch with anyone from the gathering?
When I arrived, I didn’t know if anyone around me was a Nextdoor member, so I approached a lady waiting alone at the caravan window for a coffee and asked, “are you from the Nextdoor group?” Wow, that started the ball rolling. She was lovely, responsive and chatty. We sat and talked for fifteen minutes, and found that we once lived in the same suburb. My daughter and her son must have been in the same school as littlies, it was so fun to learn about each other.
I feel I strongly connected with four of the women from the first gathering. As time goes by, maybe we’ll become Nextdoor friends, which is great and what we all wanted.
What does community mean to you and why is it important in today’s world?
Community is neighbors that you may bump into, pop in to see, and just feel that you might make a friend here and there for support. The world today is very fast-paced and people don’t stop to talk anymore; we are all in a hurry or scared to be friendly. I’m a mum of six and have twelve grandchildren. I have moved a number of times during the early days raising children. When I got divorced, I had to find friends at 58 and somehow have a life. Now in my single years, I have settled and therefore have my feet where I want them to be, and I am very happy. Friends in my local area will just make my journey forward even more rewarding.
What are your favorite neighborhood spots? Where do you like to go for a cuppa?
If I go for a cuppa, it will be within walking distance. I love the local movie house and shopping area, both a five-minute drive, and a huge park that has a three-mile bike and walking track, ducks, food vans, and lots of activity.
What do you love about Randwick?
I would say that the variety of all ages is appealing, my area is pure community and families. I did not grow up in the area I now live, but I feel home where I am, and I guess this is because the first six years of my life were spent one neighborhood away.
Why is it important for neighbors to start talking and get to know one another?
I love a chat, but making friends can take a while to see if you share similar character and values. Nextdoor can get the ball rolling with neighbors whether it’s selling a chair, needing a lightbulb changed, or just asking if anyone wants to have a cup of tea or coffee.
Do you know someone who goes above and beyond for your neighborhood? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a great neighbor in your community.