keys to success

Community Groups: The good the bad and the ugly

Working the voluntary sector for over 12 years now has been an enlightening experience to say the least!  Meeting the most selfless people I could ever hope to meet, is definitely one of my highlights. These are the people seem to have an abundant amount of energy and positive vibes, they just make you feel good being around them.

When I started out it was quite overwhelming, I couldn’t believe that all these groups existed and I often wondered what I could do to help, this was the part of community development that excited me and little did I know then,  would change my outlook on life forever.  What started as a temporary six month contract on a project, turned out to be a career which I wouldn’t change for the world!

So, the good the bad and the ugly, what exactly does that mean?

 The good:

This is the easy part! It is quite easy to highlight good things that happen such as working with volunteers who selflessly give hours upon hours of their time when they could be doing other things, the looks on people’s faces when they’ve successfully gained funding and that crucial project can go ahead.  Mainly I enjoyed it when I could get out there and talk with the people whose lives were positively affected by the projects I helped to develop.  One older gentleman stands out to me; he was telling me how the dance class run at the local church was the only time he got to socialise with other people, his wife used to go with him but she passed away.  He had tears in his eyes when he was telling me about her favourite dances and that without this group he just wouldn’t have continued to exist, this was his lifeline and kept him going through his darkest days.  How unprofessional of me ( I thought) to have a tear rolling down my cheek, but then I’m human and being touched by stories like these on a weekly basis just made my job the best in the world.

The bad: 

Funding cuts have impacted on so many groups, we all hear about it in the news especially in this sad time of recession; but what does it really mean?  For the elderly gentleman I spoke of, it would mean no social contact, sitting at home alone, with no visitors and no one to look out for him, what an isolated existence that must be.   According to a survey by Help the Aged, more than a million elderly people feel trapped at home and can go for weeks without speaking to anyone. Some 630,000 pensioners said they felt as though nobody knew they existed. Is that a reflection of a bad society?  How can society be bad when there is so much good that does go on (as mentioned before?)  Who decides who is left out and who gets access to a weekly service which is a lifeline to many?

The ugly:

It shocked me to the core when I found out that the bad goes on, and to make matters worse, it is more common than you think, this one example just shows my naivety when I started working with community groups.  There are people out there who do set up fake groups, going to the trouble of documenting fake constitutions, policies and procedures, spend hours writing funding bids only to pocket the money themselves and real groups who make a real difference are deprived of that money that makes all the difference to so many lives.

A message to all of the good out there:

Please do continue your selfless work; you are all angels who will never know the true value of the time you give.

A message to the bad:

I can only hope that these hard times will pass and groups will survive and become stronger as a result. Look at partnerships and working together, we are stronger when we unite to fight

A message to the ugly (you know who you are):

What goes around comes around, one day you will be that older person with no one to care for you, isolated and alone, money cannot buy friendship and kindness, change your ways, you will feel a lot better for it.


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