As one of the newer Community Builders the past few months has been a learning curve for me. Alongside all the challenges and initial questions, there are many things I love about Community Building. For example, I love visiting local groups and activities and hearing about things that people enjoy doing or causes that they are passionate about. I love seeing people’s faces light up when they talk about their interests and hobbies. And then sometimes being able to connect individuals with other individuals who share an interest, and seeing those people bounce ideas off each other and share stories about their common interest – this whole process inspires and excites me.
Over the past fortnight or so I have particularly enjoyed visiting some of the knitting, crocheting and craft groups that take place in the villages where I work. I have felt very welcomed in these groups, and have enjoyed meeting the people, seeing their various projects and hearing their stories. One of the crochet groups decided to get involved in this summer’s Big Friendly Read and between them have crocheted many of the characters from Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox to decorate their local Library and bring in more people from the community, and I had the privilege of seeing their exhibition there. Several members of that group have also been making comfort blankets for residents of a local hospice, and each week a different member of the group makes a granny-square of a particular size, and at the end of the year the squares are attached together to make one absolutely fantastic blanket, which is then given to a charity where it will be put to good use. Members of another local craft group are working on similar projects, such as little blankets for the hospital for premature babies, and gloves for local homeless projects.
The care and affection that I have seen in these groups – not only the stitching groups but also the coffee mornings, games groups, choirs, art groups, skittles groups, walking groups and other activities – is absolutely lovely to see. The fact that people look out for each other and remember details about each other’s lives and offer to take each other to hospital appointments and ask about each other’s parents and spouses and grandchildren shows what a great support people are to each other, and what strong friendships can be developed through such activities and groups.
So where do I fit, as a Community Builder? Part of my challenge is to continue to find the people at the edges of community, and to find opportunities for them to pursue their interests and use their talents while becoming more actively involved in community life. Everybody has something to offer, and everybody should be not only be included but really valued for their contribution. This is what community is all about.
Over the next two years I aim to support the communities where I work to become more welcoming and inclusive of all. My focus at the moment is getting to know local groups that meet regularly and finding out which groups might welcome new members. Then, people who hope to get more involved in community life can be introduced to a local group that is relevant and interesting to them, or be introduced to other individuals in the community with whom they have a common interest. Residents are also encouraged to start new groups around an idea, hobby or interest, and it has been a privilege for me to be involved in this process.
Perhaps each of us can be inspired to go a little out of our comfort zones for the sake of community. Why not make some time to get to know your neighbours a little better, listen to their stories and find out about their lives?