Couple launch community hub in Te Awamutu

Te Awamutu couple Shaun and Sarah O'Dea built the Sharing Shed to bring their community together. It will be set up in ...
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Te Awamutu couple Shaun and Sarah O'Dea built the Sharing Shed to bring their community together. It will be set up in Anzac Green, off Bank Street.

The drive to find ways to connect with your neighbours is on the rise and one couple have come up with a concept to increase community connectivity while reducing waste.

Shaun and Sarah O'Dea  have spent two months building the Sharing Shed, which will act as a library, a place to exchange produce and as a noticeboard for Te Awamutu. It will be set up in Anzac Green, off Bank Street.

They built the 2.5-metre-tall structure from pallets, recycled decking timber and plywood.

People can make a note in the book they donate to say why they recommend it.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

People can make a note in the book they donate to say why they recommend it.

A sociology expert says the O'Deas are not alone in their mission to connect people. Many others are increasingly seeking ways to connect with neighbours. 

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Shaun, who grew up in Te Awamutu, started to think about how he could play a part in his community after taking a job at Waipa District Council.

Shaun O'Dea hopes the Sharing Shed will give townspeople the opportunity to talk to each other.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Shaun O'Dea hopes the Sharing Shed will give townspeople the opportunity to talk to each other.

"The Avantidrome has a food trade station and Cambridge has a shared library – I wanted to build on that and allow the people in my neighbourhood to come and share.

"I hope there are little interactions and it creates a platform for someone to start a conversation with someone else."

Shaun hopes people will use the space to donate quality items and "good reads", rather than just dump excess books. 

The structure has been made using recycled and donated materials wherever possible.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

The structure has been made using recycled and donated materials wherever possible.

"It doesn't have to be a straight swap. You are welcome to take and hopefully the next time you will donate and someone else will receive."

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Shaun and Sarah received some support from the council waste minimisation fund.

All up, they spent between $250 and $300 on the project. Shaun sees it as an interesting social experiment.

"It's out in the elements 24/7 with no one keeping an eye on it. Hopefully the community respect and look after it." 

University of Waikato senior lecturer Dr Maxine Campbell said the idea of neighbourhood connection is growing, but that people had lived without a sense of community for a while.

"I don't know if it is a conscious recognition of something being missing, but it certainly addresses that sense of community.

"Every day people go to work and don't get the chance to look at their neighbours, let alone interact with them – people are finding ways to do this."

Campbell said some people want to form social connections and others just want to help.

"It's happening across the country. There's a lady living north of Wellington who set up a chess club for pensioners to come and play because she was lonely."

Electronic media plays a huge part. Websites like Neighbourly are built around communities, Campbell said.

"There's a sense of which you develop a town square online with lots of people connecting and commenting, but it's also wonderful to have somewhere physical to go and the Sharing Shed does just that."

 - Stuff

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