Volunteer with Time Bank
Newington Green, East London, is not the place you expect to find a stunning urban oasis. Especially, at the end of an unpromising looking street, hidden next to a kids adventure playground. But to my astonishment, that is what greets me behind the shiny new gates where I have come to meet the broker of the Mildmay Time Bank, Peter Roberts. This is King Henry’s Walk Garden, a community garden established only a year ago. The rows of raised beds are abundant with wild flowers and vegetables. I make a note to myself that I must talk to the founder of this impressive garden another time.
For now, I’m here to talk to Peter about his branch of the national Time Bank Movement. They have a plot here among the well-tended beds. Looking after the Time Bank’s small piece of the garden is one way that local volunteers can earn credits and get involved. I examine some healthy looking tomatoes and herbs, but the bug chewed cabbages look like they could have done with a little more attention. Peter’s quick to point out that the most important aspect of Time Bank is the connections which it builds across the community. The tangible results don’t have to be perfect, for there to be a much wider benefit to being involved.
Mildmay Time Bank has about ninety members and with the help of Peter they contribute their time and skills and get Time Credits in return. These might be cashed in for other people’s skills or local services or they might never be cashed in at all, when volunteers find just getting involved is reward enough.
Peter, who set up the Mildmay Time Bank in 2003, is full of stories of people who have made useful and interesting new connections because of his organisation. He’s passionate about the need to build up social networks. “One of the biggest problems in London is loneliness. Young people who’ve moved to London for work and have no friends; Retired people who have lost touch with their work colleagues; Recent refugees who don’t know anyone, or those who’ve recently left prison can all take part and benefit from making new contacts. A Time Bank offers them a way to get involved with their local community, to learn new skills and to feel valued.”
Time-Bankers undertake every type of work imaginable. Whether it’s reading Spanish stories aloud to an elderly lady who is losing her sight or helping local children with their reading, tending local gardens or teaching arts and crafts, one hour of work is exchanged for another. Even rabble rousing for the right cause can earn you a credit from Peter. “Being in a Time Bank helps people to redefine what’s important work. It’s incredibly inclusive and helps to build self esteem by valuing each type of work equally.”
I can’t stay and hear as many stories as I’d like because I’ve got to rescue my bike across town. The key broke in the lock and I need someone with an angle grinder to shear it off. I feel pretty sure that a Time-Banker could have helped. I must become a member.