The Journey of a ‘Community Maker’

 Having worked ‘on and off’ for Volunteer Cornwall for over 10 years now I can honestly say I haven’t been bored. I have seen many changes and have had to adapt to these changes in an ever changing world and as Bob Dylan once said “There is nothing so stable as change” I have worked within a diversity of roles all with similar aims of promoting voluntary action within the community.

This began in 2005 with my first project working within the Black and Minority Ethnic Community in Cornwall as a Volunteer Development Officer. The project only lasted just over a year but was a great success.

Working with ‘The Employments Project Team’ on a project aptly named ‘Back to work through volunteering’ was my next venture. This involved helping to find voluntary placements for up to 30 hours a week to enhance a person’s job prospects.

My journey then took me into our Volunteer Centres, assisting the Volunteer Centre Managers with the many projects they were running and for a short time taking on the role myself! I travelled far and wide across the East of the county, meeting many wonderful volunteers who were giving back to their communities, engaging in worthy causes and helping those in need. I also engaged with voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises through my many other roles.

For a while, I worked as a Viva Officer, focusing on people with disabilities and helping them to access voluntary placements (an initiative very much alive and active still run by Volunteer Cornwall). I was also lucky enough to be involved in the running of our seven Time Banks in Cornwall as Time Bank Development Officer. I was particularly passionate about the Time Banking and the huge benefits it brings to communities and society as a whole.

Time Bank members sometimes refer to this as a return to simpler times when the community was there for it’s individuals, the old concept of ‘love thy neighbour’ but with a new economic twist and where everyone’s time is equal thus making everyone equal. Working on the simple premise of reciprocity, Time Banks aim to place value on community action, promote productivity and build social networks by engaging local people in the giving and receiving of services.

When the Time Banking project came to an end, I was unfortunately made redundant (though the Time Banks still exist across Cornwall and are open to anyone wishing to join).

However this story has a happy ending. Six months later Volunteer Cornwall asked me back in a new role as ‘Community Maker’ which I gladly accepted. So here I am back in the East of the county promoting voluntary action, supporting voluntary and community groups and assisting on the Welcome Home Service that we provide.

 

The journey continues like ‘a work in progress’ and I hope to give you further updates as I head off into new territories. My next blog will be about Mental Health and volunteering.

 

Penny Steventon