Connecting communities

Promoting Independence through the shopper service

Stronger together: Connecting communities

What makes for a thriving community? In a basic sense, the answer is ‘people’ but a more detailed explanation might be that it’s the combination of the activities available and the services within an area, that enable people to stay connected.

The more people know about what’s going on in their community, and the more they can access the activities that keep them connected, the better the sense of community spirit.

This article explores some of the key types of community services that connect people through local activities.


Food, glorious food

Many of the most visible community services focus on providing food for those in need. For example, there are around 2,000 food banks in the UK that hand out emergency parcels of food to those struggling to afford to feed themselves and their families. There are charities such as FoodCycle that collect surplus food from kitchens and uses whatever it can gather, to produce a feast for a community meal.

Take Christmas Day, for instance; this is a day where people usually come together and a community is connected. Many churches and charities offer Volunteer run Christmas dinners for those who might otherwise be alone on December 25th. Public transport is not typically available on Christmas Day, so without vital Community Transport organisations all over London that run throughout the festive period, people could not access these volunteer supported charitable services, and many would often be left hungry and alone on this day every year.

Aside from foodbanks, there are other services that enable people to access fresher healthier food options, such as Westway CT’s Shopper Services for local people in Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster, offering members daily transport to take them to larger supermarkets where there is more choice than in a smaller local shop. If you live in Kensington & Chelsea or Westminster and struggle to do your shopping using public transport, it’s worth looking at the shopping timetables.


Looking after children

Young parents can quickly become isolated as they get to grips with being mums and dads for the first time. By coming together with other parents in the community, we’re able to share stories and advice, let our little ones play with friends and combat our sense of loneliness. Local community centres regularly offer parent and toddler groups, second-hand clothes and toy sales, and coffee mornings to provide vital networking opportunities with others.

These groups are found easily online or on the local church noticeboards. You can also join local groups on Facebook or search Google to find Meetups in your local area.


Witness the fitness

Whether it’s age, disability or ability, many people want and need fitness activities that can help them to stay active and healthy – from a physical and mental perspective. From boot camps designed for mums to walking football for those unable to charge around a field or use the gym, and specialist classes for those with mobility issues, communities across the country offer fitness sessions that bring together like-minded people in a positive way.

Organisations like Open Age run a timetable of activities for people who are over 50. They even partner with Westway CT to help their members get to these classes. I went to meet a group of people, some of whom were members of Open Age, that played Table Tennis at the Second Half Centre in St Charles hospital. Learn more about how this group of people stay Forever Young.


Culture vultures

Quite often, a community will express its identity through the arts. Whether it’s showcasing local artists or musicians, theatre productions, craft workshops or giving local schools the chance to shine – plays, exhibitions and concerts offer great opportunities for people to come together, share their culture and have something fun to look forward to. Westway Trust explores ways to strengthen the North Kensington community through access to arts funding, participation, high-quality programming and cultural spaces.


Reducing loneliness and isolation

Whether they help our health and fitness, boost our parenting skills, provide food and company or celebrate what makes our community strong, all the above activities and services are part of the formula for a happy and thriving community. Greater access to the wider community is key to boosting social inclusion, reducing isolation and eliminating loneliness.

That, of course, is why transport is vital. Without public and community transport options, it’s all too easy for people to become isolated or unable to tap into the lifeblood of a community. That’s one of the key reasons why the Local Government Association puts transport provision as one of its four key priorities for the Government to build thriving communities. The more transport can be provided, the more we can open access to the activities that bind us all together.



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