Cam Hill and his wife Christine attend Bethlehem Baptist Church. He is the community impact manager for Good Neighbour Aotearoa Trust. This is his story.

What is Good Neighbour about?

Good Neighbour provides practical help for people, no matter what they are going through. We have project teams that do backyard clean-ups, house moves, and such like. We provide low-cost firewood, have 160 garden plots in our community and in schools, run the third biggest food rescue service in New Zealand, and have just started an MSD-funded service called ‘Living Well in Your Home’ that provides holistic wrap-around support. We also have a commercial kitchen that prepares meals using rescued food and a training programme that mentors boys.

We want to inspire people in New Zealand to live better lives by seeing the need of people next to us and responding with generosity, compassion and kindness. A lot of people want to help but they just don’t know how or where. So, one of the things Good Neighbour provides is opportunities for volunteers.

How and why did you get involved?

I used to work for Cool Bananas, a Christian-education-in-schools programme. After about 10 years there, I felt I wanted to do more for the community but I wasn’t sure what exactly. I wanted to open my heart to what other people are doing, because sometimes you ‘catch’ stuff. So, I went with two others to visit Freeset in India and then we went up into Nepal, where we visited several different NGOs. One was called Good Neighbour. I wrote that down and thought, “Wow that is a great name. If we ever do something, maybe that’s the name!”

Back home, my house got broken into a couple of times by the same young guy. I went to a family group conference and put up my hand to be his mentor. I didn’t get a lot of time with him before he was moved to another programme in the Waikato, but he opened up the neighbourhood to me. He knew why all the young people were walking around in my street at 2am; he knew what was happening with the gangs. When I went to his home to take him some food, there was not a salt and pepper in the cupboards. The huge need in our community was suddenly made clear to me. So that gave us the motivation and we just began to do what was in front of us, and it has developed from there.

The organisation has come a long way in six-and-a-half years. Give us some idea of the scale of your current operation.

We do 3000 project hours in the community annually. Our firewood depot has 250m3 ready to go, to support 100+ families this year. (They pay a small amount for the wood and help with delivery on one of our firewood days.) Our food rescue service collects and processes 10 tonnes of food a week, re-distributing it to 50 local organisations and charities. All this work is only made possible with input from local businesses, funders, around 400 volunteers and 12 staff. 

This is about more than just being kind, isn’t it?

A lot of church focus is on ‘come to us’ but Christians are also called to go and look for ways to be Jesus in our community. God is already working in community; we’ve just got to join him in what he is already doing.

When we serve people—we’ve given them food or firewood, have done their backyard or moved them—then we can have those conversations: “Have you ever thought of what you are doing with your life? Have you thought about what Easter is about?” They are not offended; the walls don’t go up, because they know who we are, they know our heart and they know we can be trusted. So, we just work with people at their stage of life. I believe, in time, the harvest will come. 

Cam is happy to answer questions or make presentations about Good Neighbour. Contact him here.

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