By Kirsty Walker, Director of Neighbourhood projects
In February this year, we celebrated some of our fantastic volunteers by giving “Community Champions” awards to inspirational individuals whose hard work giving back to their community makes a huge positive difference to people’s lives.
At practically every TDC AGM (and there’ve been a few now), somebody highlights that our community volunteers are our ‘life blood’ or ‘we couldn’t exist without them’.
This week, as we mark Volunteers’ Week, an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering, we want to make clear that this is not hyperbole – it is a simple fact in our neighbourhood’s team.
The neighbourhoods we work in are full of community activists helping each other, taking direct action, and even on occasion working with a public service to improve something in their area. It pains me to hear these communities referred to by their needs and deficits when mostly at TDC we just see their amazing passions, skills and strength.
In the year ending March 2020 more than 750 people participated in running activities and services in their communities that we are involved in and they contributed over £290,000 in volunteer hours and other in-kind contributions. They also raised a whopping £140,000 in funding for community projects.
So that’s the big picture stuff, but what does this look like on the ground?
It looks like
- amazing individuals sitting up late with account books and receipt bags,
- volunteers booking appointments at the resource centre for printing or Grantfinder;
- small groups of people spending many an evening sat in cold halls planning projects;
- large groups of people inviting out services and companies to discuss local plans;
- cooking & eating together,
- gardening together,
- dancing and exercising together,
- even building skate ramps together
and sometimes it looks like just ‘being together’. On high days and holidays, it looks like festivals and street parties. Mostly It LOOKS LIKE A COMMUNITY.
By working together, communities create a resilience, enabling them to face adversity, and this has never been more clearly demonstrated than by the response to the Covid-19 crisis.
Whether mutual aid, unincorporated group, CIC, or registered charity, there have been people at the hard end of the crisis ensuring no one is left behind. Some have been instrumental in making sure that everyone can eat as part of the emergency food network, others have created community oases through their gardening and some have reached out to those isolating though telephone or post.
So on this National Volunteers’ Week 2020 I say THANK YOU. THANK YOU for making this city better for all of us and for letting us be a small part of all the amazing things you do.