A Riddle: What is it?

It isn’t a trip to Dreamworld, although some dreams do come true here,
It isn’t a building, although sometimes it’s in one,
It isn’t a club or a meeting, although meetings do happen here,
It isn’t an emergency room, although some small crises (and some big ones) occur daily,
It isn’t a bandaid, or a pill, or a rescue package,
It’s not on Facebook, or Twitter, as far as I know,
It isn’t a sermon, or a congregation, although people talk, and others listen,
It isn’t a day program, or a detention centre for recent maritime arrivals,
It isn’t a casino, or Westfield Shopping Town,
It’s not a cult, but it has a charismatic leader, or two, or three…
So, what is it?

If it were a game, it would be the Ungame,
If it were a music ensemble, it would be the choir of hard knocks,
If it was a colour, it might be green,
If it was a TV show, it would be Friends, or even Neighbours,
If it was a feeling, it would be the complete spectrum from misery to joy, because they are all important,
If it was a flower, it would be a desert rose,
If it was a carbon footprint, it would be very small,
If it was a painting, it would be a Jackson Pollock,
If it was an animal, it would be a unicorn,
If it was a place to shop, it would be the West End Markets,
If it was a personality type, it would be a sensitive introvert,
If it was a celebration, it would be Christmas in July,
So, what is it?

It’s an idea.
A very big, and very optimistic idea. A huge idea.
It’s an idea in the minds of those of us who already know the answer to the riddle.
In fact, although its not Dreamworld, it is a dream of a better world.
And guess what – we are all helping to build it right now.
So, what is it?

It’s a place to feel safe,
A place to feel connected,
A place to be real,
A Place to Belong.

Claire Edwards 2012

Claire’s ‘Uncentre’

Being a student on placement at A Place to Belong has been a unique experience, and it was challenging to try to represent it visually, but for me this piece did capture some of the nuances of community development work.

In this art piece I was trying to explore the basic idea of A Place to Belong, with reference to a non-competitive board game, called the ‘Ungame’, which I have often used with families to open up communication in a non- threatening way.

In the board game there are places to go when you feel a certain emotion, such as sadness, anger or happiness, and the aim of the game is to encourage people who are playing to talk to each other about their feelings, but also about their thoughts and other experiences.

I called this piece ‘The Uncentre’ because unlike many other agencies, the building in Thomas Street is not actually the ‘centre’ or base of the activities of A Place to Belong. The name of the service is ambiguous, especially at first, because everyone who uses the service hopefully finds their own place to belong, in their own communities.

The image consists of coloured dotted lines which symbolise different pathways that people can take and people they can meet, and places around the edge which represent different emotions that we all experience at different times. Part of the universal experience.  The dotted purple circle around the outside represents the community, with no walls or barriers. It allows movement inwards and outwards. The coloured wool threads which I sewed into the paper represent the connections that can be created between people.

 

Daniel’s story – reflections of a student placement

 I am currently in my first year of a Masters (Qualifying) of Social Work at Queensland University of Technology and soon to complete a placement with A Place to Belong. I felt welcomed as soon as I met some of the people in the A Place to Belong network. This time has been an extremely positive experience, helping me to develop a much better and deeper understanding of inclusion and community engagement. This is something I will take with me into my future practice.

Reflecting back to when I first started, I only understood community in a very general sense and I didn’t think much about the word’s significance. A Place to Belong however has shown me how important community is, and how it involves so much more than just a geographic location.

Mental health social work at A Place to Belong is challenging yet rewarding. Working directly with people in their neighbourhoods and communities, trying to make a difference in their lives can be very hard, but the results can be so positive.  I am enjoying my journey with everyone and although the time seems so short, I will continue to learn as much as possible from this dedicated group of staff and the people they seek to assist.

Belonging

My words,
on text for ages to come

my deeds,
both silent and lovingly done

lessons,
given by people most kind

busses,
well run and always on time

celebration,
for the Recovery Day

creation,
while I was working away

kindess,
from all the people I met

meetings,
to see that all needs are set

and,
all that I am left to say is that I am…

thankful,
for A Place to Belong

Andrew Janson Welles

Andrew, a College student visiting from the USA, spent some of his summer vacation time with A Place to Belong. This poem reflects something of his experience.