This is NOT JunkPosted on 20th March 2015 by Sean de Podesta
The first three months of 2015 have been a very positive time for us at the Neighbourhood Care Scheme, with at least one enquiry about volunteering every working day – and we will have interviewed thirty new volunteers by the end of March. This interest in volunteering is not an accident. Since last September, we have put literature through the letterboxes of 9,000 households around the city.
The top photo shows a Brighton College student delivering in Kemptown last year. We have a couple of thousand more to deliver before Easter:
I myself have delivered a good number of these. It is one of the pleasures of working for NCS to deliver leaflets and then to return to the office to find a message on the phone from someone who wants to volunteer. The literature we deliver lets people know about others living near to them who could do with some support.
In some areas of the city, nearly every door has a sticker on it saying “No Junk Mail”, and I have to tell myself “This is not junk mail” as I push the envelope through the letterbox. This is not junk mail because I know that the right person reading this leaflet could change their life and the life of another person. Housebound older people can be invisible to their neighbours. Our literature enables people to become aware of the existence of some of their invisible neighbours, for example:
A 93-year-old woman who enjoys classical music and used to play the piano and sing. She is unable to get out alone now and would also love somebody to go out for a walk with to get some sea air.
A man in his late 40s with a sight impairment who is passionate about all kinds of music and used to play the guitar. He would like somebody to go out for coffee with and look around the record shops.
This spring, I have had the opportunity to confront hundreds of front doors and garden gates and consider their significance. They define the boundaries of homes and the realm of security that a good home provides. But they also exclude others. Maybe for some people security is provided by the separation or isolation. But for others, this isolation can be a curse; security for them is provided by knowing and trusting their neighbours.
Over the next few months, we hope to connect thirty or so volunteers with their neighbours (perhaps the woman who enjoys classical music, or the man who wants to look round record shops). We know that these connections will have a positive impact on people’s lives and help in a small way to make some neighbourhoods more caring communities.
NCS is one way of connecting neighbours – but there are others. We have been involved with Know My Neighbour – an initiative to try and promote greater neighbourliness in Brighton & Hove by encouraging people to approach their neighbours. They are currently trying to organise a Neighbour Day in the city. Check out their website. And the next time you see a neighbour, why not say “Hello”?