Christine Durrant is the community builder for Preston, Paignton. Here she recounts the far-reaching effects of the Coronavirus Crisis on both herself and the people she is normally in regular face to face contact with.
This morning I had a brief taste of my pre-covid life. I walked along the beach from Preston Sands to Goodrington Sands and got chatting to people along the way – keeping a good two metres apart as I want to stay safe and keep others safe. However, I also needed to connect with people and those who connected with me this morning were feeling the same way.
No matter how brief the encounter, it felt good to speak face to face. We talked of many things, retirement, dogs, lockdown, volunteering opportunities. The ups and downs of lockdown life and what we were doing to keep sane. I learned from them and I hope they learned from me. That is what community is all about, living and learning alongside each other.
The life of a community builder is all about connection and connectors. What do I mean by connectors? These are the people who just love to connect people they know with each other. You know, the person you would go to in order to find a reliable decorator, doctor or dentist. The one who sets you up with a new friend just because s/he is so sure you will both get on. Connectors have nothing to gain personally from these introductions they just love it when they bring strangers together because of the joy that strangers becoming friends brings.
Community builders spend their working lives building relationships and connecting people together. We go where the energy is. When we find someone, who has the passion to make changes in their community, our hearts sing and we work alongside them to give them as much support as they need to get the show on the road. Sometimes the input is very small.
Take Kath. She met me at a coffee morning. Her great desire was to provide support for anyone whose partner had either gone into a care home or had died. Not just any carer but carers whose partners had dementia. This is a debilitating disease and it involves 24/7 care so when that burden of care is lifted it also leaves a gaping hole in the life of the carer. Suddenly they are alone with no focus for their lives. They have long since had to give up friendships that took them away from their caring responsibilities and so have become isolated.
Kath and I wrote a list of all the people who we knew between us who fell into this category and then we invited them to the pub. ‘But what shall we tell them it’s for?’ asked Kath. ‘A drink’, I replied.
Eighteen people turned up for a drink. We sat at two tables and asked a simple question: ‘In your ideal world what would you like to do?’ Ideas were many and varied but one stood out to us as perfect and easy to manage. ‘I’d like to go out for Sunday lunch. You can’t cook a roast for one.’
So that’s what they did. Kath booked a table for all those who wanted to come and they went out for Sunday lunch. Pre-covid they were doing that every month. Note, Kath did that. I have remained in the background ready to support if needed but Kath leads the group. Pre-covid, Kath would also book theatre and cinema trips for them so they had things to look forward to between Sunday lunches.
That was back in 2016 and they are still going strong. Friends have introduced other friends and the group has continued to grow and support one another. I don’t think there is much talk of dementia but that is a common thread that binds many of them – the knowledge that these people understand what it is or has been like. Throughout the lockdowns they have stayed in touch by phone and when it was allowed between lock downs some of them even met for lunch. It didn’t take much watering for this seed to grow.
To find out who your community builder is go to: https://ageingwelltorbay.com/delivery-partners/community-builders/ or ring 01803 212638.