Resident led community building: A personal perspective
We have been extending our range of volunteer opportunities at ExtraCare, to create a more collaborative and empowering approach to befriending. Since 2021, we have launched new resident-led “Community Teams” in our villages. Here, residents can take the lead in coordinating befriending support and community events, with the help of local staff (see details here). Doing this, our teams have helped other residents take steps to integrate more meaningfully into their community.
Here, resident Liz Cole shares her experience coordinating the Community Team at Earlsdon Park Village.
Why did you take on this role, Liz?
“It was a hands-on role, and I love speaking with people. To know that I would have the opportunity to enrich other people’s lives – that really bought me. At this stage of life, what is better to do than that? There is nothing better.
We’re all in it together, for whatever length of time we’re here (which may be short), so just give! Just give to each other – that’s it. Experience the joy of giving. Taking on a role like this felt a great thing personally. It’s a really good feeling.”
What potential do you think our new Community Teams have, to improve residents’ experiences in the village?
“You’ve got to remember that people come into the village for so many different reasons. And those reasons are not always the best. Some people come here after experiencing a loss or tragedy. And they come into a strange new environment that they’re unfamiliar with. So, the potential of our volunteer team in that situation is big – really big – for someone’s lifestyle.
Just think, to have someone reach out, come to your door, and offer some kindness – it can make such an impact. It’s a blessing for me to be invited in to speak with the residents I reach out to. And also for them – they know that there are people here looking out for them. There are people who can be an anchor for them in this new place – that’s big.
If people feel that they are in a community where there is a life to move forwards with, and that they’ll be helped to make that happen – that’s a big thing.”
What has been most rewarding so far in your role?
“It has been very rewarding when I’ve gone in to see a resident for our first meeting, which might be an hour or two, and seen the difference between the start and the end of our time together – to see the change from the situation I’ve gone into to the one I’ve left. You see how relaxed they become, and the look in their eyes when they know that they are okay and that we are here for them.
It can be a lot to take on, as people really want to talk when I first meet them, and they can share a lot of hard things they’ve been through. So, it’s not always easy. But as the volunteers I match residents to keep meeting together, and I see the change that this has, it’s very rewarding. It’s great to see people changing and moving on.”
Finally, what should the priority be when it comes to building community in a village like this, to help others do it successfully?
“Working together, staff and residents – a big, big priority. All as one, not with a sense of division or people worried about stepping over lines. We must work together for these things to work.”
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