Show: 'Smile Couch' popular at Ashburton A and P Show

Dozens of people took a seat on a blue ‘Smile Couch’ at the Ashburton A&P Show last month to find out more about the Ashburton District Council’s Start with a Smile campaign.

The campaign, which launched in September, aims to make Mid Canterbury feel like home for the many newcomers who are choosing to live and work in the district.

The Smile Couch is a place where locals and newcomers can sit down and get to know each other. It has been travelling around the district to events, public places, community spaces, workplaces and schools. It was at the Ashburton A&P Show on 28 and 29 October.

Ashburton District Council’s Community Relations Manager Vincie Billante says feedback from the community has been positive. The A&P Show was a good opportunity for people, especially students, to find out about the campaign.

“We have had people sit on the couch as strangers and walk away as friends, swapping phone numbers and making plans to catch up for a coffee and continue getting to know one another,” she says.

“The campaign is benefiting the community through building connections and encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone by starting a conversation with someone they haven’t met before. There’s a lot of excitement in the community about this.”

The Smile Couch will make an appearance at the Ashburton Learning Centre graduation on 25 November so that international students can learn more about the campaign.

Start with a Smile was first run last year in Christchurch, by the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, in response to the large number of overseas rebuild workers in the city. Ashburton District Council has taken up the campaign, as part of its leading role in the newcomer and migrant settlement work programme, under the Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy.

The campaign will run until the end of March. It will also be picked up by other Canterbury Councils.

The above story and pictures are courtesy the Ashburton District Council