I moved to the area from a different cultural background and one of the things I noticed was that people weren’t really talking to each other – even on the same street – often they did not even know the name of their next door neighbour. When the pandemic struck, that changed.
It’s my natural way of being, to engage with people and talk to them. I will have a chat at a bus stop, in a shop or on a walk – so I do know my neighbours. During the pandemic I got involved by setting up a mutual aid group and one of the things I did was match volunteers with anyone who needed help. I tried to match them geographically, not only because it was easier for the volunteer to deliver shopping on their way home, but mainly so people could actually get to know each other and hopefully become friends.
Some people who were volunteering lived very close to other volunteers or to people who were in need of help, but it appeared that many of them had never spoken before. By getting involved with the group they became firm friends.
We just wanted to get on and do something useful. There’s always people who talk a lot but don’t do much, and those who say “you can’t do that” – but I try to believe in the best of people.
It was important to make it easy for people to join in – we kept the bureaucracy to minimum – and by doing that we actually ended up with more volunteers than we needed!
Lots of work and effort went into this, but it was worth it because we can now say we have a fantastic community here – a community that cares.
“It feels like we have fewer neighbours and more friends”
Thank you to Patrycja for sharing this story after participating in one of our “How can more people come together to make local places better?” online workshops for Kirklees citizens.