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What we learned

June 16, 2011

“What makes us tick” showed us the power that comes from people working together on what matters to them.

We saw how this power together can be used to:

• encourage people to take action in their own neighbourhood
• build a sense of belonging for more and more people
• fulfill people’s desire to show they care and make a difference

From the personal experiences shared during “What makes us tick”, we identified the themes around which people had built a shared sense of belonging:

The neighbourhood, its buildings and shared spaces:

• The community speaking up and taking action when others have plans for their neighbourhood.
• Helping each other to grow food.
• Creating and sharing gardens.

The actions of vulnerable people being a catalyst, creating opportunities for others in a neighbourhood:

• By taking action to support local campaigns.
• Helping each other.
• Being at the heart of a community.

Opportunities for people to come together, celebrate and share what they are passionate about:

• The history shared through living in the same neighbourhood.
• Their faith.
• Bringing up children together.
• Looking out for vulnerable people.

And the example of one person saying: “I’m not having this.”

Sam Hopley – CEO, Timebanking UK

June 16, 2011

Timebanking UK nationally has about 20,000 members across 220 timebanks, of which Newsome is an important one. At the moment about 2 or 3 timebanks spring up each week.

We are part of a growing Timebanking family. It’s fascinating that at this time people all over the country, the world even, are coming up with similar solutions to the problems that we face and if we can connect up that learning the potential is unlimited.

Timebanking redefines how we relate to each other. “Marginalised people” are labeled and isolated by the services they use which then work to overcome the isolation they helped create.

Holy Cross Centre in Camden is a day service for people with mental health problems. When I started working there six years ago, we had no money, one manager, twelve staff and were trying to meet the needs of 500 people. It was impossible. It might sound strange coming from a professional – an “expert” – but I had no idea what I was doing. We were 12 staff trying to meet the needs of 500. We never had enough money. How do you ever have enough money to meet the needs of 500 people? So we became rationers of resources.

What I did have was an army.  500 people is an army, but they were 500 people who had never been asked to do anything before.

Partly, timebanking is a tool for co-production without the co-production, without handing over the decision making, without handing over the power, without this being about local people coming up with local solutions, there’s not really much point to timebanking. Volunteering is already pretty good. There is a real role for volunteering, but there’s also a real role for people to take control over their neighbourhoods and their lives.

Six years into Holy Cross Trust we now have 1,200 co-producers. We went on a journey from being that building where those people go, to being a community resource. We started by using timebanking for exchanges between organisations and what it meant was we could start to break out of our own little networks. What timebanking can do where we have lots of closed circles of trust – such as a church, a pub, a place of work, a family or a group of friends – is to let those closed circles relax and open up to each other.

Timebanking says everybody has something to offer and it’s equal. It’s a simple equation: an hour equals an hour. I think we’re in the middle of a new way of doing things. I don’t think anyone knows how it will unravel. We’re in the process of trying to understand what the implications of building social capital actually looks like and what it’s going to mean, and we yet don’t know.

There is a division here.

Do we believe people can and will, given conditions of fairness and an environment of opportunity? Or do we think that people need controlling and shaping and telling and restricting? I can only say what environment and what approach has been best for me.

I recognise that in my life I’ve been in the right place at right time. I’m no better or cleverer than anybody else but along the way I’ve often met somebody that could help me or introduced me to somebody who could. We’ve created a system that has removed a whole sector of people from ever being part of those opportunities, from ever being in the right place at the right time.

What timebanking is about is re-establishing that sort of connection.

Julie Stewart-Turner – Chair, Newsome Ward Community Forum

June 16, 2011

I joined the Newsome Ward Community Forum in 2000.  When I first joined the group the meetings were quite well attended and fairly positive, it was then very much a forum to discuss local issues – however, it did sometimes seem to be dominated by paid Field Workers.

It was a small team, of mainly Field Workers from this forum, who completed a successful bid to establish a 5 year Lottery Funded Healthy Living Project in Newsome – some of you may have been familiar with Newsome Next Generation, which sadly came to an end a couple of years ago.  So the forum had a track record of instigating new initiatives.

Soon after I joined the forum we had a change of Chair Person and the meetings started to get more and more formal, and the numbers of people joining in started to decline.

I became the Vice Chair in about 2002/3, and in 2004 I became Chair Person.  At the AGM before I took over as Chair Person, just 7 people attended – on 10th February this year, we had the latest AGM and there were 47 people; all full of enthusiasm.

We have been on a wonderful journey over the past few years.

Newsome Ward Community Forum now enables local voluntary groups, residents and field workers to come together, share information, and explore ways of working together.  It helps reduce duplication, improves communication, and helps create a sense of being connected.

But it hasn’t happened over night – it has been a steady evolution to get to where we are now.  I hope you are wondering how we have achieved this.

As I said earlier, the Newsome Ward Community Forum used to be dominated by Field Workers.  I must stress that it’s not a bad thing that they are part of the meetings, but they would often unknowingly talk about things in a way that many residents couldn’t follow.  The work they did would get more attention than the issues that local people wanted to discuss.  So we split them up.

With the help of a member of Newsome Next Generation and a Community Worker, we established the Patchworkers meetings.  These were regular informal meetings where people who are paid to work in the area would get together to share information about the work they were doing.  It worked really well for a few years, but with changes in staff and responsibilities, there was eventually no one to organise the meetings, so they stopped a couple of years ago.

These Patchworkers meetings meant that the Newsome Ward Community Forum could focus more on engaging with residents, and the issues they wanted to focus on, and we found that over the years the number of residents and representatives from local voluntary groups, participating in the meetings have grown.

We still have Community Workers attending the meetings as it is important to make sure we keep communicating with each other, we know that we need to work together to make positive things happen, but the focus of the meetings is much more informal, more inclusive and relevant to local residents.

Another problem we used to have was that pockets of Newsome Ward are in areas of high deprivation, which therefore attracted additional funding opportunities.

It meant that every time someone had a great idea about how they can help to take people out of poverty, improve education, build community spirit, etc – they would come to Newsome Ward.  But people were accessing funding for their ideas, and trying to impose those ideas on the residents of Newsome.  They often competed to work with the same groups of people, and competed for the funding to deliver their initiative.

For a couple of years I made a bit of a fuss about this, I didn’t think this way of doing things was helping anyone.  The Patch Workers meetings helped us to overcome this problem, it helped to improve communication among front line services and reduce the amount of duplication.

And now, since the Community Forum has got stronger, people have started to consult us if they want to set up a new initiative.  It means that new initiatives are created with more of an input by local people, which makes them more meaningful and gives them more chance of success.

As I said the Newsome Ward Community Forum has evolved to the point it is now, and the new structure was just the beginning of that evolution, there is more.

I am lucky to be part of a great team that leads the community forum, and we all have a similar drive to make our communities stronger, and more interactive.  We try to remember that the main focus is about community, and the diverse interests within our communities.

We still have our regular discussion groups to share information, but these meetings are now bi-monthly so as not to be too demanding on people’s time.

We realise that people have lots of commitments and we value the time that they give to us and to each other.  We regularly consult members on the way we structure the meetings and the content, to ensure that it meets their expectations.  We try to keep the meetings light hearted and inclusive.

One of the things we realised some time ago was that one of the most important parts of the meeting was the break in the middle of it – it allowed people time to catch up with each other and exchange details, so we expanded the time of the break.

If people are going to give their time to us, we want them to feel that it is worth while, we want to make sure that all the people have the chance to contribute to the meeting if they wish, and that all the people who are part of the forum feel that their contributions are valued – they are all important.

In addition to our regular meetings, we decided we wanted to do more community based things.  We were given some funding from a youth group that was folding, and we made sure it was directed towards children and young people.  One of the things we did was to establish the Kiddies Christmas Party.

This was our first venture into directly delivering a community based project.  We tried it out to see if people would like it, and we were overwhelmed by the response.  We have now put this on for 6 years and every year we have 70 to 80 children 8 years or younger at the party, along with a parent or guardian.

Soon after, we started to explore issues around community allotments, which became a lot more complex than we expected, but we persevered and it eventually led to our Growing Newsome project that you heard about from Diane earlier.

We found these community based initiatives a great way to engage more people in the forum, and although numbers were growing steadily it was slow.  Then about 3 years ago I met Alan Williams, and we discussed the principles of Time Banking.

I really liked the idea that it could offer volunteering opportunities to people who don’t like the traditional group activity.  To me it seemed a great way to help connect people within neighbourhoods to do one to one volunteering.

The idea that one hour of any bodies time is as valuable as one hour of any body else’s time, is a principle that fitted well within the ethos we were creating for Newsome Ward Community Forum, and our members were willing to support the initiative.  The community forum became a group member, and a willing partner to promote Time Banking.

It had a slow start, as people were a little anxious that it was going to take up more of their time, and struggled to get their heads around it.

However, when Rachel, our Timebanking Co-ordinator was appointed, she was able to ease their anxieties, she went out to lots of our members and was able to demonstrate how it would relate to their own group or individual circumstances – one of the great things about Time Banking is it’s flexibility.

It takes time to build confidence in people to take part in any new initiative, but over the past couple of years, Time Banking has really taken off in Newsome Ward, and people now believe in it.

It has helped us in Newsome Ward Community Forum to grow our membership, it has helped to engage new people in our community based projects, it has helped us to maintain a positive communication, which ensures we don’t relive some of the difficulties experienced a few years ago with duplication and competing initiatives.

As you’ve heard, Growing Newsome wouldn’t be the success it is without the help of Time Banking.  This was the best way to engage local people in community research, to get people involved in peer support for growing, to get people to help each other with their gardens, to build up a team to manage the community allotment, and more.

Through Newsome Time Banking, I’ve seen new friendships develop.  I’ve seen people experiencing difficulties, being helped by volunteers.  It has inspired people to take more of an active role in their neighbourhoods.

Rachel has been a great asset to Newsome Ward Community Forum and Time Banking has helped to develop our skill base. I’ve seen people have the courage to speak up about things that concern them and get involved in developing new projects.

Our mailing list has now grown to approx 270, and growth in new members can be correlated to the introduction of Time Banking.

Newsome Ward Community Forum is very different from when I started in 2000.

We are increasingly active: In addition to the Kiddies Christmas Party and Growing Newsome, we have an Out To Play group,

We have a team to enhance some open space off Hey Lane in Lowerhouses, where we’ve also planted a community orchard,

We also have a representative on Kirklees Environment Partnership, we have a project to develop the church grounds, we have the ongoing campaign to preserve mill that you heard about earlier, we are piloting new communication systems, and we did the research to support Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to move into Stirley Farm.

We have set ourselves new goals to improve things even further; to grow our membership again, to expand on the projects we’ve established.  Time Banking has helped give us the confidence, and the motivated members, to take on those new challenges.

I feel very lucky to be the Chair Person of Newsome Ward Community Forum, and member of Newsome Time Banking.  Over the years it has been such a pleasure watching people grow into new roles.  I’ve seen quite shy people blossom into leaders.  I’ve seen people remember skills that they had long forgotten.  I’ve seen people challenge themselves to do things they never imagined they could.

The forum gives people the chance to support each other, to realise their own ambitions for their own environment or their own community.  I think this is the greatest way to improve people’s physical and emotional well being.

 

Timebanking Q & A

June 16, 2011

Timebanking UK supports a wide variety of timebanks in more than 200 locations across the country. Among the participants at ‘What makes us tick’ were representatives of several different models of timebanking. We asked three of them to take questions raised by the rest of the participants.

Philippe Grainger
Rushey Green Timebank was started by a GP surgery in Catford, South London. Philippe has been the development manager there since 2007.

www.rgtb.org.uk

Reyaz Limalia
Fair Shares in Gloucestershire started in 1998 and set up the first timebank in the UK. Reyaz has worked there since 2003.

www.fairshares.org.uk

Rachel Taylor
Newsome Ward Timebanking was founded by members of Newsome Ward Community Forum and United Response in Huddersfield. Rachel has been the Timebanking coordinator since 2008.

www.newsometimebanking.org.uk

 

Who holds the volunteer details?

“That’s the whole point of the timebank – as brokers we can manage this, and make sure any confidential information is not passed about.”
[Reyaz]

“The timebank members’ personal details in paper form and along with any CRBs are held in locked cabinets accessible by the Broker and the Development Manager”
[Philippe]


What about CRB checks?

“We very rarely do them – VERY RARELY. If someone is working regularly with vulnerable adults or children, then we’ll do it. But generally most participants don’t fall into this category.”
[Reyaz]

“As members of Timebanking UK we would CRB check timebank members where we are responsible for establishing regular one to one exchanges involving vulnerable people. In practice the majority of our exchanges are set up in a public group or community environment. When you’re working with reciprocal exchanges you can endlessly debate who in practice the “vulnerable person” is. Generally people demonstrate their own ability to make judgments for themselves.  Where people’s vulnerability is supported as regulated activity by an organisational member, it’s the organisational member’s role (not the Timebank’s) to carry out CRB checks – but for their support staff, not the neighbours.”
[Rachel]


 Does red tape and bureaucracy affect the process?

“Red tape is a problem where we have to supply reams of info and ensure it is crafted to neatly fit the funding stream criteria. It doesn’t affect the CRB process but it is annoying and time consuming to be asked to CRB people for projects that do not represent or require a ‘regulated’ activity with vulnerable adults and children.”
[Philippe]


Is there an optimum size for timebanking to work – town, ward, neighbourhood, estate, street?

“You need to find a group with enough enthusiasm to get started and work in whatever area those people feel a sense of belonging with. It’s best to start small and grow the Timebanking principles gradually into what matters to people. “
[Rachel]

“No – each time bank is different, and it should reflect the community.”
[Reyaz]

“Timebanks can vary a lot, it really depends. If you want to create a meaningful sense of family for people who are isolated and need planned support, then it is best to keep it small to ensure needs are met and no one is forgotten as this can happen in larger contexts.”
[Philippe]


How many people and what other support is required to start up a timebanking project? Where do you go for support?

“It takes perhaps half a dozen people to get started. It is not so much the number that’s important but rather having a shared understanding of what you are trying to achieve with your timebanking. Support can come from other time banks, a local or regional time bank network, and of course Timebanking UK.”
[Philippe]


Is it important to distinguish volunteers from timebank “members”?

“It can be, but I think it depends who your audience is and whether you have shared aims.
There’s nothing wrong with volunteering but it’s not the same thing, timebanking isn’t about one issue and doesn’t see some people as in need and the others as volunteers. We try to find ways of working with whatever people have and can do.”
[Rachel]

“I think so. Volunteering traditionally is associated with charitable activity. It tends to be a one way street. People can have very strong mental images when the word volunteer is used. We are talking about people mixing and helping each other. I think it is different. It’s about understanding that as a community we need to share our skills with each other.”
[Reyaz]

“In our experience, most of the people that have joined the time bank didn’t want to volunteer, they wanted to belong and feel part of a group, and liked the idea of trading skills in an ad hoc way.”
[Philippe]


How do you resolve timebank deficit, where someone receives but doesn’t give or where no one has skills being asked for?

“Timebanking is a tool – it’s not just about counting the hours. We use timebanking to make it easier for people to feel part of the community and to encourage people to support each other in taking action together. What matters is whether people share the same intentions not whether they can repay the time or not. In practice it’s always harder to get people to accept help than it is to get them to give it.”
[Rachel]

“This is only really a problem if there isn’t overall balance in the time bank. You are always going to get people who need more than they put in, and others who give more than they ask for. The real problem is if you have someone not even willing to offer any help. We expect members of the timebank to sign up to the same principles so they should be prepared to give and take. Other than that, it’s the job of the timebank to find those skills that are needed, and do some creative recruitment.”
[Reyaz]

“Timebanking is underpinned by the principle that everyone has something to give. There are several ways to deal with this:

  • You ensure that services that can be offered are not just manual, intellectual or specialized skills, and include all sorts of knowledge and abilities. For example, to keep an eye on someone’s house and perhaps collect their mail while on holiday doesn’t require a lot of ‘skill’ (unless there are mobility issues). Ditto ringing another member once a week to say hello and make sure they are OK.  Same for picking up prescriptions for someone or recounting a story, a trip, helping to clear up after an event, help tidy up the office, or stuffing envelopes. It is often after a person has started to help out at the office or group activities that their self-esteem and self-confidence start to grow and then they take on new challenges and also learn new things.

  • You create opportunities for people to earn time credits (for example do some basic admin) and other opportunities to spend them so that they experience the benefits.

  • You create opportunities for people to benefit from services that require them to have credits to access such. For example, an outing on a coach, and one must have x amount of credits to go on it otherwise they can’t go! That usually does the trick to get people wanting to earn credits, and may start getting them used to earn credits by helping others or at the office.

However, we have to be kind and sensible. There are people that cannot always give back as much as others because of age, mobility issues or adverse circumstances. There may be members that once were very active, and because of circumstances cannot give time at the moment or for the future. But yet they still feel that they belong and are part of the community. It wouldn’t be right to force them to earn credits when their genuine circumstances prevent them from doing so.”
[Philippe]


Please can you give top tips to encourage people to get involved in timebanking?

“Timebanking is all about building confidence and trust. As a broker I always meet with new members. It’s important to spend time with people and listen to what’s going on in their life and what’s important to them. Then you can start to talk to people about what timebanking might mean for them. It’s their choice. I don’t think there are really any short cuts round this first stage.”
[Rachel]

“Remind people that they are not signing their lives away. There is no heavy commitment. It’s just about offering a helping hand now and then, as it suits them. It’s up to them how much or how often they are involved with the scheme. This gives them the chance to get involved with their neighbourhood, which people like the idea of, but find it difficult to actually do. Helping other people and getting to know people in your community cannot have a bad side to it.”
[Reyaz]

“You can explain to people that:

  • It gives you access to a network of helpers that even if you don’t need anything right now, you may need it later.
  • You will find people that can come and do simple things for you that traders are not interested in doing.
  • It gives you an opportunity to share your experiences and  skills that may not have been appreciated before or elsewhere.
  • You don’t have to be a hero or super skilled – you are welcome as you are.
  • You will feel welcome and valued.
  • It is not volunteering, you will not be asked to do anything that you feel you must commit to for x amount of days and hours.
  • You can say no to something you don’t want to do and you will not be judged because of it.
  • You will learn from other people, you will acquire new skills.
  • You will have fun.
  • You will gain friends.
  • You may even save money.”

[Philippe]


Lots of the examples from Newsome had an issue of concern to local people before timebanking was introduced. If the issue is hidden (like social care issues) will timebanking work?

“Whilst having an issue is a good starting point, I think it’s important that timebanks aren’t single issue driven. So I don’t think you need a specific issue of concern. Just having a group of people who want to develop their community is enough – just wanting to engage with their neighbours.”
[Reyaz]

“Of course, because with Timebanking these things aren’t really separate. We have used timebanking to help people organise action to address issues of local concern and worked to include people who are often left out of things. In Newsome people did this with the local campaign about planning permission at Newsome Mill, and with Growing Newsome, the local food growing project.

“What we’ve been learning and discussed at “What makes us tick” is that we can use timebanking to create a greater sense of belonging with a whole range of enthusiasms around environmental projects, arts projects, children’s play schemes, older people’s sheltered accommodation. All these have been brought together to support each other with timebanking, which has created new relationships and opportunities for people beyond the timebanking exchanges.”
[Rachel]

Diane’s story

June 16, 2011

On 6th November 2007 I found out that the owner of Newsome Mill was intending to demolish the building. When I walked around the corner of Hart Street that evening and saw the weaving sheds standing there without their roof slates, I felt completely powerless. I was told that there are some things you just can’t do anything about. But I don’t believe that.

It was only when we were about to lose it that I really understood the relationship between local people and our mill.

Newsome is here because of the mill. It’s part of our history, part of our landscape and part of our identity. A strange silence fell on Newsome when the mill clock stopped.

Within 2 months, I managed to get the mill Grade II  listed. But that was just the beginning. The mill has suffered flytipping, theft, vandalism and arson. Even the war memorial was stolen. We made a public appeal and got it back. To try and stop these things happening, we started trying to find ways of telling people what was going on.

Timebanking helped us reach the whole of Newsome, spreading the word through newsletters that were hand-delivered by timebanking members.

The other half of the battle is the former Newsome Mill allotments at Hart Street.

Many people had approached Newsome Forum asking for help getting an allotment. Meanwhile, the land at Hart Street has stood empty for 20 years, with the local community resigned to just complaining about it.

People with similar interests came together around the land at Hart Street – heritage campaigners, near neighbours, conservationists, local food activists and land campaigners. We met and decided what collectively we could do. We decided to get our own evidence of the local need for food growing.

We ran the Newsome food survey to find out whether there is demand for food growing in Newsome. We needed to find 12 people to volunteer to work a full weekend to run a door-to-door survey, which seemed like a massive commitment. Timebanking helped us to identify people who cared about the issue.

We learnt how to do this together – and we got 486 responses to our survey. We heard local people’s stories first hand and found out that together we have everything we need to grow our own food.

The results were overwhelmingly positive. 53% of people were willing to do something to help others to grow their own food. We formed Growing Newsome and held our first event within 3 weeks of getting the survey results. 80 people turned up, and it was impossible to tell the organisers from participants. Everyone just got together and helped each other – so those survey results didn’t just stay on the page.

Growing Newsome is all about sharing. We encourage the swapping of seeds, plants and stories. Older people with experience in food growing are helping younger people who are just starting to learn. This is building confidence about how to grow – everyone can participate in some way.

Next we looked at where to grow. We started a garden-sharing scheme. We started to learn that it’s ok to ask for help, because we have things to give in return.

One lady was brave enough to offer us her garden, which was shoulder-deep in brambles. We all got together one morning to clear it.

We also started to work with other organisations. We asked One 17 Design for help with the Hart Street allotments. They helped us to develop a vision for the site and to share this. After years of complaining, people were now talking about doing something positive with the land.

We shared our aspirations with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, who were looking at a much bigger area of land for food production at Stirley Farm. They carried on our survey work, and their plans were influenced by local enthusiasm for food growing.

Meanwhile, we still needed somewhere for our project to grow. So we took on 2 allotment plots, following council investment in local allotments that we helped to secure. We inherited a load of mud, weeds, pigeons and two old, battered glass houses. None of us could have taken this on ourselves.

I met Pat and Cherry through the allotment. The three of us live 2 minutes away from each other and we’d never met. We need to talk to each other all the time to get things done – to organise ourselves around the weather and work out what needs doing. We’ve become friends. So together we’ve grown far more than vegetables.

We worked with what was there already. We kept the vine and grew runner beans up the old A-frame.

People started to bring us things – rhubarb, an apple tree, seeds and veg plants. Some people brought their experience. Some brought strength. Some brought equipment. Some brought encouragement.

And the grapes began to ripen, due to (or in spite of) our efforts. And this way of working began to influence how I thought about other projects.

When we started a new technology project in Newsome, I stood up at a Forum meeting and asked if people would give their skills, as well as taking learning opportunities. I met Valerie that night, who immediately offered to help. And I didn’t know that Valerie had just taken the plot next to us at the allotment…

We call our technology project Newsome Grapevine. Because it’s about helping people to share what they know, to share it on the grapevine. But also because I was inspired by my fellow food growers and the vine that didn’t give up.

We started running computer drop-in sessions, helped by Paddock Learning Centre. Rob, who we know from Growing Newsome, came along to help people with digital photography.

Janet came to learn but also shared what she knew with others. And she brought other people along with her – some dragged out of the queue at the post office.

Some of the people who we met at the computer drop-in then came along to the Growing Newsome Autumn Fair. Other people brought us courgettes from their allotments and apples from their gardens. We turned these into jam for the Christmas Fair at Paddock, which we’d been invited to by Simon from Paddock Learning Centre. In the process, I accidentally learnt how to make jam and cake, encouraged by our Timebanking Co-ordinator, Rachel, and by my mum.

Our technology project was also coming to fruition. A new website and text message mailing lists gave us new ways to share what we know. Things have also progressed at the mill, with new planning permission being granted in January 2011.

Exactly 3 years after listing, the mill clock hands were stolen, which was really upsetting. No-one seemed to want to take responsibility. But we are now actively looking for anyone who can help us to protect our mill and get it back into use. The future is still very uncertain, but we have given this building a voice.

So is my story about losing things, or about what we’ve gained?

Imagine if timebanking members became the custodians of this clock, so that it can be heard again in Newsome and beyond. Imagine if Hart Street became a local food growing centre. By working together, these things are possible.

People + place + timebanking = getting things done.

Pam’s story

June 15, 2011

The Caterpillar


Pearl-like eggs lay on a leaf

Moonlight sparkling on the dew beneath

As the sun rises in the sky small head emerges

by and by

Small and green with a bristly skin moving

quickly he starts tucking in

Leaving lacy patterned leaves swaying in the

gentle breeze

Through the nicely ordered row he munches cabbages as he goes

He’s not the gardeners delight

He and his friends are considered a blight

But, this has no effect on him

He keeps on growing and tucking in

While sunny days are rolling by

He looks up to see a butterfly

‘Blimey,’ he says ‘just look at those wings

You’ll never get me up in one of those things’.

 

It’s a moving little story about a caterpillar but for me it has a more serious message, because if the caterpillar didn’t get into that thing it would never become what it is intended to be.  It would never reach its potential.

My job for the churches is to work with and for the community and to assist them where appropriate to gain a better quality of life – to help them reach their potential, to start releasing some of their butterflies. And this is where Timebanking has proved a great resource. Timebanking was set up as a skills swap organisation – I do your decorating and someone can do my gardening, that sort of thing – but interestingly something else has happened. It seems to be able to help people who have been very isolated, lacking in confidence and self esteem, to blossom and flourish so that they can become part of the community and feel as if they are doing something worthwhile. Our work seems to dovetail so well.

Let me give you a few examples.

The churches run a charity shop in Newsome called the Together shop. We have over 60 volunteers involved in all sorts of tasks, from selling the goods, sorting them, making sure the shop is fully stocked to collecting donations and the window dressing. We have seen people grow and develop because it has alleviated loneliness and isolation for many who work there and also those who buy things.

It’s a bit of a chitter chatter shop because people who live alone will call in and have a chat, get things off their chest, have a bit of a laugh and go away smiling – it doesn’t really matter if they don’t buy, the main thing is they go away feeling better.

One of our volunteers is young lady who was introduced to us through Timebanking. She helps in the shop and the manager tells me that over the months she has been there she is more confident, she is so reliable and always on time and willing to do anything.

Every year we have a party to thank the volunteers for the time they give us and this young lady came this year. She hardly knew anyone there but she walked in, took her place at a table and enjoyed her supper. She laughed and sang along with the entertainer and do you know it’s not that long since I could only get a very shy “Hello” out of her. And I wonder, is her butterfly beginning to be released?

Every two weeks I help run a Social Dance for older people in Newsome. Here again we have been able to work together. Rachel Taylor, the Timebanking co-ordinator, has introduced us to several people who have attended the dance. One lady (who has a learning difficulty) started coming to help us wash up when we had had our cup of tea.  She was so shy and reserved when she started. Her support worker even brought a pot towel to encourage her into the kitchen No such luck. She wants to dance and that’s what she does. She has a great time. Laughing, giving us hugs and telling us about where she is going on holiday. What a change in her!

About 18 months ago the churches and the community organised a weekend event at Newsome High School. The aim of the weekend was to celebrate all that is good in the Newsome area. It was a huge success with over 800 people attending. We saw friendships develop. Some of the people who helped hadn’t been involved in things for a long time. They gained in confidence, and wanted to get involved in other things and a real feeling of camaraderie grew.

We would have found it much more difficult to do the job if it hadn’t been for Timebanking.  We had so many volunteers willing to help and make the event the success that it was. I have a lot to thank Timebanking for.

We have other projects in the pipeline and I look forward to sharing the work with Rachel but what I look forward to as well is seeing how people blossom when given the chance to do something that makes them feel useful and cared for.

So long may Timebanking reign and we work together to release many more butterflies.

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