Participation Cymru visits Timebanking project6 Oct 2009
Participation Cymru and members of its Advisory Panel visited Blaengarw Workmen’s Hall to gain an insight into how the Timebanking initiative is promoting active citizenship. The hall is managed by the Creation Development Trust, which was set up to address social, environmental and economic needs of the Garw Valley. Its mission is to ensure that the hall is a thriving centre to the former mining community. The project is flourishing and it now has over 600 volunteers and 35 groups involved with and benefiting from the timecentre.
Timebanking is a way of engaging members of the community by using time as currency. Members of the hall have given their time to help others in the area by taking part in projects that provide an opportunity for people to socialise and re-engage with the community. These projects include activities like arts projects, learning, childcare and projects for young people. As they donate their time, those taking part earn time credits and also become active members of the community. The credits can in turn be redeemed at social events at the hall, which reinforces the sense of community in the village.
After being shown the range of activities available in the hall, the group were shown the Calon Lan Parc, which was once an overgrown and disused piece of land but is now a vibrant green area and a source of pride for the village’s residents. At its centre is a sculpture created by the members of the hall that details the valley’s mining history.
Having seen the park, the group were then shown where the sculpture was made. The production of this sculpture not only gave members an opportunity to provide a focal point for the park, but also an opportunity to boost their own mental health by socialising and becoming more active in the community.
Twenty one of Blaengarw’s streets have street ambassadors, who are able to notify the relevant council department of any problems taking place in their street, such as rubbish dumped or faulty streetlights. This enables the streets to have residents that are fully aware of who to contact in any eventuality, which leads to a fully engaged, empowered and safe community. The ambassadors meet every month to discuss any issues, for which they earn time credits, and in turn they can keep their neighbours up to date with what is happening at the hall.
The group were then shown the town’s café, where a daily special is made available every day that is both varied and balanced. Time credits are accepted as part-payment, which enables people to buy a good value hot meal every day. The café is also a place where people can meet and get out of the house, which ensures that local people are looking after their physical health and wellbeing. There are also computers in the cafe that are used by local young people who earn their internet time by paying for it in time credits.
After seeing the successes of Timebanking, the group were introduced to the work of Spice, its sister project. Spice works to engage people and their communities with public services. Not only has Spice been empowering the people of Blaengarw, but it has also worked with social landlords to better involve tenants in the transformation of their surroundings.
Barbara Bowness of the National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare (NLIAH) described the initiative as "an amazing project that gives plenty of food for thought - the possibilities seem endless!" This inspirational visit also led to a presentation on the benefits of citizen centred services to the recently established Ministerial Advisory Group on Public Service Delivery.
Further information on the work taking place taking place in Blaengarw is available from www.creation.me.uk, or to read more about the work of Timebanking Wales please visit www.timebankingwales.org.uk.