Meet Maya, our New Communications and PR Officer I’m excited to join Near Neighbours as Communications and PR Officer at this time, especially in light of recent events in the UK this year. I’m a strong believer in the cause of bringing people from different faiths and ethnicities together to better the community. As part of my job, I will be visiting the Near Neighbours hubs across the country and bring you stories of the projects that grow from them. I'll also be the person behind our social media, so please do join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! I spent the past year and a half in Auckland working in marketing and development for The New Zealand Dance Company, and before that I worked in marketing and volunteer management for several different charities in Tel Aviv. I’ve lived in Israel for most of my life and am quite familiar with how grouping people into “us” and “them” can divide and instil fear. However, I also know from personal experience that having individuals meet and interact with a common interest in mind can break down those barriers and create friendships. In my spare time I enjoy swing dancing, which has proved to be an excellent way to meet new friends from all different nationalities, faiths and ethnicities. When you're dancing with another person, you don't think about how they might be different from you; but rather are focused on connecting with your partner and just having fun! There's something about the dance that creates a sense of community. I know that I could travel to anywhere in the world, and if there are swing dancers there, I could easily make new friends and even get offered a place to stay without having met them in person. Having this shared hobby connects us and overrides any other aspects of our lives that otherwise might keep us separate. For example, during a time of war in Israel a few years ago, a group of Israeli swing dancers reached out to Palestinian swing dancers and organised an event where we all got to meet and dance together. We talked about dancing (obviously), music, what we do for work, what we studied, and what else we did for fun. I would have never had the opportunity to meet these people had it not been for dancing. This is how I know that having a common interest can supersede obstacles and bring people together, and this is why I believe in Near Neighbours. I look forward to learning about all the wonderful activities that our grant recipients and partners have in store for their communities, and of course to sharing them with you!