Tuesday 1st March, 2022
Author:   Michael Kenny

Yarram Neighborhood House (YNH) and Community Learning Centre has been a part of the Yarram community for many years, offering a diverse range of activities, supports and interests to people in the local area. When COVID-19 emerged as a global pandemic, there were huge changes to our lives. This was felt particularly in rural communities, where local groups, clubs and social activities play such an important part of community life. With so many regular activities suspended or reduced during a series of COVID-19 lockdowns, increasing isolation and lack of community connection were felt by many, particularly those living on their own.
Yarram NH took up the challenge as restrictions eased, seeking funding to run a series of outings that would appeal to a variety of interests and ages. This culminated in the Connecting Yarram Project, involving a series of community bus outings, commencing in late 2021.
With an unpredictable and unseasonably wet spring and summer season, Yarram NH had to adapt. The inaugural outing, a river cruise, was cancelled due to flooding. Instead, a mixed group of local residents took the opportunity to attend the nationally renowned Archibald Prize exhibition at the Sale Art Gallery. Enjoying an ‘up close’ look at a wide range of portrait entries, featuring notable Australians from different walks of life, this group enjoyed a great day out in Sale.
Yarram NH has developed a long running partnership with Fitness Zone, a low-cost fitness venue that provides accessible health and exercise opportunities for community members with diverse abilities and goals. For the second outing, community members were drawn from Fitness Zone participants. They visited Fish Creek, making good use of the Rail Trail that runs through the town, for some exercise. While there, the group got to enjoy this increasingly popular tourist destination, sampling a range of food, local craft and art along the way.
Many will remember that 2019-2020 was a challenging and traumatic year, as massive bushfires left vast areas of scorched landscape in Gippsland, and elsewhere. Many people were left reeling from the damage to property, livestock, wildlife, small towns and communities. Local volunteers in Yarram soon got involved in the efforts being made to support fire affected communities, preparing patchwork quilts and face masks for the districts of Bruthen and Buchan. These quilts and masks provided some practical support to those affected by fires. To build on these local craft skills and encourage volunteers to develop their knowledge and enthusiasm for such projects, contributors went on a fabric/quilting outing in late 2021.
After extended lockdowns left so many of us stuck at home, or restricted within local bubbles, the Connecting Yarram project is getting local community members back on the road. Recent trips to Philip Island, the Royal Botanic Garden at Cranbourne and elsewhere are getting local community members out, socializing and enjoying a bit of travel again. These outings, with good company and a welcome change of scenery, are going a long way to help restore positive wellbeing and rekindle local community connections.