On the path to bringing people together

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Jyoti Dambiec… “This is going back to something I remember when I was a child, when we knew all the names of everybody in the street.” Photo by Kathryn Vukovljak

IT’S a welcoming sight: chairs and tables set up along a bike path for anyone who feels like a rest, a little street library, plant stall and neighbours and passers-by taking time to connect.

Jyoti Dambiec says the bike path community hub she started in Evatt creates conversations and brings people together.

“I’ll look outside and people will be out there chatting. I love having something there that opens the door to conversations,” she says.

“It’s this thing of needing to connect with local community, to say hello to your neighbours and know who they are.”

Jyoti says she started the little library because people would stop to chat while she was out gardening at her McGill Street home on the bike path off Moynihan Street, Evatt.

“This is an ideal spot because there’s a river, schools, the lake, church and a lot of people walking by,” she says.

“I’d put out tomato plants, not to make money but because it made people stop and the little library was an extension of that.”

Jyoti’s library is an old cabinet discarded by a neighbour that she and another ceramic artist friend decorated with mosaics and filled with books.

“We see people out here with their bikes and their kids, or a neighbour sitting with her grandchildren reading ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ by the garden,” she says.

The Evatt bike path little library is part of Transition Streets, a program overseen by SEE-Change that brings neighbours together to look at reducing their environmental impact while building community.

“There’s a growing movement in Canberra of doing this kind of thing, to meet that need and pass on skills that bring us together,” Jyoti says.

“We’re social beings and we need community. It’s something lacking today, even with all the online connections there are a lot of very lonely people.”

Jyoti says their Transition Street group of around 15 people meets every month, and that through the initiative she’s become friends with locals she had barely met before, despite being neighbours for decades.

“It’s broader too, the group includes people who pass through from other suburbs,” she says.

“I’ll sit out here when I come back from my cycle, or friends visit and instead of going inside we sit at the bike path and chat to people walking past. This spot is conducive to meeting people!”

Topics such as water, waste, consumption, energy and food are discussed as part of the Transition Streets’ education, says Jyoti, who also runs the Facebook groups Vegan Healthy Living and Vegan Food & Garden Adventures.

Jyoti hosts regular social events at the bike path – organic garden tours, film screenings, barbecues, breakfasts, live music and fire pit nights, cooking and mosaic workshops.

“This is going back to something I remember when I was a child, when we knew all the names of everybody in the street,” she says.

“To be living next door to people for 20 years and saying hello once or never having seen them is pretty appalling.

“People are busy, and sometimes I think, I’ve got so much to do today, but then all these people are out here and a lot of time can go into that as well. But it’s so important to connect.”

The next meeting will be at the bike path, located a 120-metre walk down the hill from the underpass off Moynihan Street between Sharwood and Fitzhardinge Streets, 10am-11am on July 8. More information from jyoti@dambiec.net

And see-change.org.au has more information on Transition Streets.

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist with a particular interest in homes and gardens.

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