Local Hero Medal for Emma Sherie

Emma Sherie saw a need for more connections to combat social isolation in her West Coast community.

She wanted to help so she got to work in her spare time and set up CommuniTea, a pop up community café in Granity which serves between 40-70 people each week. Her volunteer work earned her a West Coast Kiwibank Local Hero Medal this month.  

As Library Manager for Buller District, Emma oversees two libraries and six staff, manages budgets and book purchasing, creates strategy and participates in a range of activities to keep the libraries ticking over. She has worked for the Buller District Council for 15 months and lived on the West Coast for 11 years.

Emma Sherie serves tea and community connections at her West Coast pop-up cafe
Emma Sherie with her fellow Kiwibank West Coast Local Heroes for 2019

Emma expands on her motivation for developing CommuniTea. “I had the idea for this because at the time I was suffering from my own mental health challenges and wanted to make a difference for others who may be affected in this way.” CommuniTea aims to strengthen mental wellbeing and reduce loneliness for people in Granity, through shared experiences. The project is run by 25 volunteers and is completely sustainable through a gold coin koha. “We focus on people’s passions and find a volunteer role that aligns that. We spend a lot of time celebrating achievements, keep meetings down to an absolute minimum and most importantly we have heaps of fun,” explains Emma.

CommuniTea has started making money, so they’re now donating back to other local community groups such as the volunteer radio station, the school, and volunteer firefighters.

In August this year, Emma was a keynote speaker at a ‘Building Citizen Driven Communities’ conference in Canberra. The event provided a platform for people to explore ways to create vibrant communities led by active, caring and engaged citizens. “CommuniTea is a great example of these things as the community owns it and drives it,” explains Emma.

"I always share my struggles with my mental health and I have spoken openly about it at CommuniTea. People in my community know that they can come to me if they need to and I will put them in touch with the right support services."

Emma’s Council colleagues are understandably proud. “They love the volunteer work that I do and are very proud to have a staff member who works so closely with their community,” says Emma. "I always share my struggles with my mental health and I have spoken openly about it at CommuniTea. People in my community know that they can come to me if they need to and I will put them in touch with the right support services."

CommuniTea is held every Friday at the Granity Fire Station from 10 am – 12:30 pm. Pop in next time you’re in the Buller District and get connected and inspired!