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Community 'bank' finds the time to be a helpful neighbour
Buy this photo » Time Bank development co-ordinator Fiona Mullins helps by doing gardening. Picture: OX62276 Simon Williams
CAN you imagine a world where you can store time in a bank?
That’s the concept behind the Cowley Time Bank, which has reached full membership one year on from its launch.
The free scheme allows people to earn ‘time credits’ by helping out in their community.
For each hour a member spends helping somebody, they receive one time credit for a task they need help with.
Odd jobs range from gardening to mending clothes – or you could simply give someone a lift.
Fiona Mullins, from Florence Park, development co-ordinator, said: “Everyone is a giver and a taker in the scheme.
“Time-banking is based on what people can offer.
“What I like about it is that it’s not the same as volunteering – it’s a two-way thing.”
She added that she feels “strongly about simple connections” between people in communities.
She said: “I wanted to find a way to develop the community more and I just think it’s a very positive thing.”
Ms Mullins started the scheme last summer with “time broker” Hannah Fenton, who is responsible for pairing members up.
The 30-year-old from Oxford said: “It’s about people doing more of the things they want to do and getting help for the things they don’t.
“I’ve had brilliant experiences on the scheme myself, from baking cakes for people, to getting my bike fixed.”
The scheme currently caters for people in Cowley, Cowley Marsh and Temple Cowley, but there is potential for expansion.
She added: “We’re thinking about setting up community clusters where we will support people to set up other time banks.
“There’s been interest from people in Blackbird Leys, Iffley Fields, West Oxford, East Oxford and Abingdon.
“But we’re at full capacity at the moment at 60 members.
“There’s only so much we can do so we’ll soon be looking for more admin support.”
Member Viv Peto, 67, from Havelock Road, Oxford, said the scheme boosts “neighbourliness.”
She said: “I have a van and have been able to drive people around.
“In return, I’ve had pieces of furniture mended, which has been very useful.” Another member, Satomi Jardine-Iwakoshi, said: “I helped prepare sushi rolls at the Barracks Lane Community Garden cookbook event, which was a great opportunity for me to feel I was helping people, but I haven’t asked for anything in return yet.
“My husband and I don’t drive a car so it would be good to get a lift to the Redbridge tip to get rid of some rubbish.”
One member who has particularly benefited from the Cowley Time Bank is Martin Stott, secretary of Divinity Road Area Residents’ Association and a researcher at the University of Birmingham.
He broke his arm in a cycling accident in August and sought help from members to assist with typing up his academic papers.
The 59-year-old said: “I’ve had to rely on people quite heavily.
“I haven’t been able to type and Fiona has organised people to take it in turns to type up my articles. The time bank has been wonderful – I’m really grateful."
The Cowley Time Bank is run by volunteers and does not receive regular funding.
It received a £300 community grant from Cowley ward councillor for Oxford City Council Shah Khan when it was first set up to help with admin costs.
Mr Khan said: “They were a new group and I wanted to help.
“It’s a great community project with neighbours working together as a team. If I can give any more help I would be happy to do so.”
In addition, the scheme won an Awards for All grant of about £5,000, funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery fund.
The funding was part of a joint grant with Barracks Lane Community Garden – totalling £9,600 – which has enabled them to hold time-banking events at the garden and establish an office space at the Ark T Centre in Cowley.
Barracks Lane Community Garden co-ordinator Jacqui Mansfield said the time bank works “brilliantly.”
She said: “From our point of view as a charity, it’s got more people to come and use the space.
“It has definitely encouraged more people to be actively engaged with their community.”
Events at the garden, a charity in East Oxford that allows people to use the garden for a range of purposes, have included a “bring and fix” event and community cooking.
Members who helped at the events could earn time credits.
One of the most successful outcomes of the scheme was when four members helped another one move into their new house in just over two hours.
Time bank members David and Anne Bull also moved to Florence Park three years ago and found that the scheme helped them to settle in.
Mr Bull, who is retired, said: “We thought it would be a good way to get to know people and it’s helped with that.
“We’ve done things like watering someone’s allotment while they have been away.
“It’s good to know that the time bank is there as a resource.”
Weekly events held include coffee mornings at the Ark T Centre in Cowley at 10.30am on Fridays.
Next major event for members of the time bank is on Sunday, October 27 at the Barracks Lane Community Garden in East Oxford.
It will allow people to have their say about the way the scheme will be run in the future.
- For more information about the Cowley Time Bank, people are asked to contact Fiona Mullins on 07729 655543.
FACTS AND ACTS
- There have been 1,130 hours of help in the community, including over 700 hours helping to run the time bank.
- Seventy hours have been spent helping at events.
- Sixty hours of teaching-related swaps, for example, language tuition, music and mindfulness.
- Seventy-five hours of help outside the home, for example, cycle repairs, fixing, gardening, leaflet delivery, tree cutting, moving/lifting.
- Thirty hours of help inside the home, for example, baking, cat feeding, housework, simple repairs, washing/ironing.
- Thirty-two hours of office help, such as poster and website design, photography, word processing.
- Thirty hours of art and craft help such as sewing, knitting, and woodwork.
Eighteen hours of general ‘people’ help such as counselling, companionship and giving lifts.
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