Community Connections – unleashing the kindness and compassion around North Berwick

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. -The Dalai Lama

North Berwick Coastal Community Connections started in April. It’s about drawing on our natural kindness and compassion. We aim to tackle isolation, help people connect to local activities, recruit volunteer helpers, bring about gatherings, try to meet the needs we can. It’s an honour – and a little overwhelming – to be given this responsibility.

I get referrals, from both GPs and others in the community, where someone seems likely to benefit from what we can offer. Each conversation is unique and fascinating – I love to hear people’s stories. Some recurring themes: things about feeling fragile, vulnerable, cut off, losing confidence about meeting new people. Roots can include bereavement, a distressing diagnosis, a late-life house move, unemployment, a new baby, loss of financial security, a family break-up, problems with neighbours. It can seem to come from nowhere – but there’s usually a disconnection, or an adverse experience, involved.

I recollect my own post-natal depression, bereavements, miscarriages, divorce guilt – at various stages of life, I felt lost, too. There are so many reasons we might feel disconnected, even in such a lovely place – nobody’s immune.

Do we need a local befriending project? A community garden? A memory café? Live music sessions? Movies with a chat afterwards? Coffee gatherings? Shared cooking? More peer support groups?

North Berwick is rich in activities and brimming over with kind, hospitable folk, from the community centre to churches to friendly baristas. Could we find more ways to connect them all up and maximise the compassion, the kindness, the support in everyday life?

Cross-group collaboration might help. The Area Partnership is open to your ideas – they funded this project.

So what’s needed for my current clients? For starters, dog-walking to enable access to a class; someone to go to the pool with; a get-together with fellow musicians; an occasional ballroom dance partner; someone to have coffee with each week… for some, these might be all it would need to make a difference. And though I might love to help with these, I couldn’t do much else in my two days a week if I took them on!

What do you think? See anything you could relate to? What activities do you love to share? Some would love to be able to garden again; some to share local memories; some to get out for a walk; some just to have a chat now and then.

Right now, we need a bank of ‘community connectors’ willing to meet and chum someone along to their activity – even just once or twice.

Like to help make it happen? Everyone can contribute – and everyone’s welcome, with training and support available. Just call, email or come have coffee with me – maybe at the Beacon lunch on a Thursday. Or at the Project Launch on Thursday 20 June, 6-8.30pm, at the Community Centre. See you there.

Carol Stobie, Project Officer,
North Berwick Coastal Community Connections
Tel. 07940 203380
(Please note: I work on Tuesdays and Thursdays)

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