A Heart for Community

A few months ago Peter and I were filming a short video ready for the How About? launch party, when I was asked when I got involved with community work. I responded by talking about how I got involved with community work around 10 years ago when my eldest son was born. But after we finished filming and I was home I started thinking about it, I mean really thinking about it and actually, I got involved long before my eldest was born.  Really, it’s something I have always had a heart for, even as a very young child when I was rallying everyone up to contribute to the Blue Peter Bring and Buy sales I organised, and getting everyone together to raise money for a charity I wanted to support.

As I became a teenager my passion continued. I became part of a community of music-loving
teenagers, we were a tight knit community, all from the same city but different schools, we would socialise at a youth project called Base Connection and at our local Arts Centre. We were always there for each other, and actually I made some solid lifelong friends through this community of peers.

At the age of 18 I moved to Cornwall with my family and shortly after turning 19 my eldest son was born. I desperately missed being in a tight community of likeminded peers and was very lonely. That community was my world. When my son was about 18 months old I started going to WILD Young Parents Project. Through this project I met lots of other young mums with children a similar age to my son. I was a self-taught and very keen allotment gardener and through WILD I had the opportunity to set up a community allotment where I could pass on my skills and teach the other young mums to grow their own food. This project progressed and I became involved with The Barefoot Games at The Eden Project. I got to expand the project and bring WILD mums from across Cornwall together as a community for an event at The Eden Project. In 2012 I even won an award for the project!

allotment project

In May 2012 my second son was born and I found myself using the local children’s centre. They were on the hunt for people to form a parent forum. A group of us got together along with the guidance of a community development worker with the aim to bring the families in our area together as a community. We did this through organising family fun days which were accessible to the families in our local community. We did this for around two years, organising five fantastic events.

Using the skills I gained in the voluntary sector, in October 2013 I started working for a social enterprise called Go Real which promotes the use of reusable nappies. This found me slap bang in the middle of an online community of mums, volunteers and businesses, all with a passion for promoting reusable nappies. This really demonstrated to me the power of social media and how it breaks down barriers for people who strive to be a part of a community. In April 2015 I took over the management of Go Real and through this I discovered a love for research and started to realise the importance of measuring social impact.

Peter and I knew each other through our children who attended the same nursery, in the spring of 2016 he told me about his idea for How About? I got really excited about his ideas and knew I had to be involved!

So, when thinking about my life, it has shown me how, not only is community important to me, but actually it has been a key part of my life ever since I was small. How About? is important to me because measuring the impact of community groups, charities and social enterprises on their communities in our economic climate can be key to keeping other people’s communities together, communities that to some people are their world. And, no, I didn’t first get involved with community work 10 years ago, it’s something that has simply always been a part of who I am.

– Anna

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