Hampden Playgroup: Reducing social isolation for rural families

New Zealand is full of rural communities, many of which have young families that enjoy the easier lifestyle that these small towns provide. However, it can be an isolating and lonely experience to be bringing up children in these areas.

Hampden is a small town in North Otago, with a population of roughly 300 people – a lot of them families. SKIP partnered with Safer Waitaki to support the isolated families of this area. The need was identified by Kirsten Dixon, SKIP Coordinator in the area who was approached by parent leader Jess Orr, who said, 

“I had this crazy idea for a playgroup for awhile, the closest one to us is about a 25 minute drive and my daughter would always fall asleep in the car” 


Local funding secured

Hampden Community Energy was identified as a co-funder of the playgroup. This trust is run by Dugald McTavish and has the wider focus of reducing carbon emissions in the Hampden area. They recognised that by having a locally based playgroup, they’d not only reduce the distance parents had to drive to a playgroup they’d be reducing the carbon emissions at the same time.

“It’s great to see this group connecting and spending more time together in our town – even outside of the playgroup” Dugald says.

Alison McTavish – Dugald’s wife and local librarian talks about the importance of small communities staying connected.

“It’s vital for small communities like this one to continue to have the facilities that we use on a weekly or fortnightly basis right here in the community” Alison explains.

Positive impact and change

The playgroup is one of the ways that the community has been able to come back to life and has started forming some close friendships and relationships as a result.

“Knowing that this is here every week – we look forward to it, it’s like a reprieve from the grind” Jess says.

Each of the parents that attend this playgroup have a story that shows the positive impact having a group like this has had on their lives and their parenting. They all identified that the group allowed them to relax, be themselves and unload some of their stress which helps them to be calmer and more present with their children.