May is the real deal in Brussels…
1 April 2019
That was one of the newspaper headlines that captured the story of May Barker who travelled with Volunteer Scotland to Brussels to celebrate the final “Get Connected – Volunteering and Shared Values” roadshow at the end of March.
May received a special invitation to join the event so that she could personally tell people from across the EU about the impact that volunteering can have on bringing people and communities together. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite have enough time to also sort out Brexit while she was there…!!
Back in March 2018, we held one of our first CommUnity Bubble events in Tillicoultry as part of the Get Connected project. Out of this event emerged a group of 5 dedicated residents from Chapelle Crescent who were prepared to volunteer their time to try and bring their community back together again. This group of 5 soon grew into a group of 10 and it was at this point that May came onboard. Over the past five decades May has witnessed the deterioration of the housing scheme she lives in and with it a loss of community spirit. As May explains in her own words:
"People look down on Chapelle Crescent, but it didn't used to be like that. People were desperate to get these houses back in the day. They were brand new and innovative. There was even a resident’s association. It's great that this project has started. Chapelle really needs a boost. We're trying hard to make a difference and hopefully once residents see things are changing for the better even more people will want to join in. This project has given people a bit of hope that maybe things can change for the better, that something good may come of it and people will become more neighbourly. It's still early days, but we have lots of ideas and are planning a fun day this summer to get people together. I'm really proud to be going out to Brussels to represent my community”.
I was lucky enough to observe for myself the magic of that group coming together, with their community passion and their friendly banter, and their strong desire to bring their neighbourhood together and build community spirit. One of my favourite moments with May (a “Memorable May Moment”) was when she told me a story of how she and her pal had visited an elderly sick neighbour wearing rubber gloves and wielding brillo pads, stating their intention was to give him a bed bath! She said it certainly broke the ice and helped to overcome the awkwardness of how to show support and compassion in difficult circumstances. This seemed to perfectly sum up May’s strength, humanity, and humour.
When I was asked at the Brussels event to say a little bit about what a CommUnity Bubble is, I said that it was about people, places, passions and community context – all of the things that I have witnessed during my engagement with the Chapelle Crescent residents.
The Get Connected project has been a complete validation of the power of dialogues and community conversations in bringing people together. It’s also demonstrated the power and value of building community relationships and the enjoyment that this can bring.
And most of all it has shown the immense reservoir of goodwill that exists within our people and our communities…amongst people like May who naturally, and without fuss, help to bring out the best in all of us.
Click here to find out more about the Get Connected project.