I am so lucky…I have so much…I don’t mean money…friends, sisters, brothers, partner, child all doing their thing.
To explain, I live in a community with many social problems, alcohol, drugs, theft, violence and the like all the usual negative forces that are attributed to poor communities throughout the country, yet I could not live in a more real, lively, caring, sharing place. This is my community.
I live in a building which has been tagged as being one of the worst buildings to live in on the estate, yet, apart from an unsightly, unhealthy rubbish problem and a really noisy party once a month I am still able to rise reasonably early in the morning and enjoy quiet peace and birdsong.
At one time, not so long ago, these buildings were damp, cold, lacking in good facilities – yet, eighteen months ago all it took to change the situation was to attach a newly invented form of insulated cladding, install a new central heating system, roof insulation and balcony doors and windows to improve the situation 1 million per cent.
I hear on the news of the terrible state of social housing and dilapidated housing schemes, yet this area in Edinburgh, due to the foresight and hard work of a group of residents in the 1990s was one of the first in Scotland to win their battle for new housing (I lived at the other side of the city at the time). Terrible old apartment blocks, built in the 1950s were torn down and new, well insulated homes and apartment blocks were built to cater for the mixed community that live here, a mixture of social, shared-ownership and private housing was built. The mix works!!! If I could provide a then and now picture you would understand. The building is still going on. We are even getting a combined social/physical health & social welfare hub right in the heart of the community.
I live in a community with a beautiful modern school, a creative arts centre, community support groups and organisations that organise events, groups, clubs, care within the local community boundaries, including a Timebank (an organisation that pays individuals with time credits instead of money). I enjoy my community choir Timebank Temptations on a Thursday morning. The garden at the back of the Art Centre cafe is amazing, so warm, so peaceful, so full of life. Who could have envisaged these changes twenty or thirty years ago?
Of course there are still problems, mainly to do with supporting individuals in recovery from addiction and their families or those with mental and physical health problems, listening and caring for abused and abuser, changing attitudes with education and explanation, promoting and encouraging positive individual growth, providing everyone with the tools to help themselves and being there to celebrate with them when they achieve their dreams.
Changing a culture is not an overnight event it takes at least one generation if not more, we are human, no-one is perfect. Lets start realising the changes that have been made, celebrating our achievements, working, socialising, living and caring together. Just like the community of Muirhouse in Edinburgh where I live. Does anyone remember the terrible event of January 2013? A little boy that went missing? Around 500 individuals including local council representatives from my community showed their care, concern and solidarity by joining in the search for that little boy, afterwards, they all came together again in a service to mourn the loss of Mikhail. That, to me, is real community life. Real people, real lives, real care.
Change at community level is all about breaking down barriers, listening, planning, acting on plans, education together with explanation. It is all about being the example and showing the results. Its all about being part of the community and sharing your skills not running away and hiding from the pain.
Most of all its all about changing perceptions, celebrating, accepting, connecting people and place, loving, caring, hoping and living where you have been planted. At least it is for me.