WONTHAGGI Neighbourhood Centre at Mitchell House is one of the 20 houses in the Neighbourhood Houses Gippsland (NHG) Region gearing up to celebrate Neighbourhood House Week from May 8 to 15.

Neighbourhood House Week is a nationwide initiative to celebrate the role of Neighbourhood Houses and Centres in communities.

The theme for this year’s NH Week could not have been better in these unprecedented times of social distancing and isolation.

The 2020 theme is Loneliness: the solution is community.

According to the Australian Psychological Societies Loneliness Study 2018, one in four Australians are lonely and that figure is even higher in some age groups. Your local Neighbourhood House is here to help.

Community connection is important to people’s health and wellbeing physically, emotionally and mentally.

The report refers to the current situation as the “loneliness epidemic”.

Studies have shown a huge economic cost to loneliness.

The Eden Project Communities study ‘The cost of disconnected community’ estimated that loneliness costs the UK economy 32 billion pounds annually.

The best way to deal with loneliness is to get connected to your community.

This may seem impossible with what is happening in the world at the moment but all it means is we have to adjust how we connect.

Since the beginning of March, there has been a massive increase in the use of communication on video conferencing and other online platforms.

However, not everyone is connected to the wider world on the internet.

It is important that we help these people stay connected as well.

Now, more than ever, it’s important that we call our elderly friends and neighbours, that we make sure those around us can access the food and provisions they need.

There are more than 1000 Neighbourhood Houses across Australia helping their communities stay connected.

They are a safe, welcoming place for people to come together to learn, have fun, socialise and connect.

The Neighbourhood Houses Victoria ‘Connecting a Diverse Victoria’ study surveyed 47,000 participants who identified the top three benefits from participating at a Neighbourhood House were associated with community connection, participation and reducing social isolation.

Antonia Halloran-Lavelle, the Network Manager of NHG said: “Although we can’t call into the local Neighbourhood House at the moment, we can still connect with them.

“The dedicated managers of these Houses are all continuing [to] work from their homes or offices across Gippsland and are still supporting their communities just in different ways.”

Ms Halloran-Lavelle is also launching a competition across the NHG region to help celebrate the 2020 Neighbourhood House Week.

“We would like people to create something that represents their local Neighbourhood House,” Antonia said.

“It can be anything, for example a sculpture, mosaic, sewn item, a piece of woodwork or even a Lego creation, its open to all ages. We would like it to incorporate some element of the symbol of Neighbourhood Houses Victoria of either a house or a heart.”

The competition is open until Friday, May 1.

There will be an online showcase of work across Gippsland and some Houses will be selecting winners. Email a photo of your entry to Wonthaggi Neighbourhood Centre at Mitchell House at manager@wonthaggineighbourhoodcentre.com.