Ask most people what ranks highest among their greatest frustrations and it will more than likely be a lack of hours in the day to accomplish everything.
But thanks to an innovative skills-exchange scheme which started up last year, a number of people’s lives are being made a little easier, fulfilling and intriguing.
The Time Bank community initiative is running in several places across our area including Midhurst, Bognor Regis and Selsey. Its members from all backgrounds typically spend a couple of hours assisting each other creatively in a wealth of practical ways.
Through trading credits of time, typically of around a couple of hours, this scheme has seen people swap skills as diverse as basic DIY, dressmaking, learning languages and IT training, through to everyday tasks such as offering to take pet-owners’ dogs out for a walk.
Members of this free service can offer as much or as little of their time as they wish. Its flexibility means this can be something as a simple, yet greatly appreciated, offer of some companionship to those who may at times feel isolated within communities.
As Susie Brown, a co-ordinator for the Midhurst Time Bank reveals, the initiative is proving popular.
“I think Time Bank is answering a real need in Midhurst as there are a lot of people out there looking for something to do. I was involved with setting one up in Kent and loved it and just wanted to do something here,” explains the co-founder of the group, which is campaigning to find a group of volunteers to take over its running.
While they are confident of being able to continue, concern remains as its financial backing of around £15,000 from organisations including West Sussex County Council, Chichester District Council and mental health charity Mind run out in April. The group hopes there will be members willing to come forward to run it on a greater voluntary basis.
Its ever-expanding ranks of more than 50 people span everything from teenagers inquisitive about its potential, through to a 98-year-old pensioner eager to continue playing an active part in village life.
According to fellow co-ordinator Susanna Lloyd, the group is careful to avoid competing with tradespeople in the area. To this end, members’ activities are very often of a social nature.
“We’ve tried to make it as social as we can as we know things have been tough for people out there. To know you are able to ask for some help through something like this is quite comforting for many people,” enthuses Susanna of its work. Frustratingly, she reveals many members feel almost bad about asking for some assistance themselves. But as she says, that’s exactly what it’s been set up for – mutual support.
Cheryl Le Blanc Smith, of Cocking near Midhurst, is one of many who believes it has been a brilliant experience.
“It’s just wonderful, I’ve been able to get to know people through it and for those who are new to the area, it’s a really good thing.
“I’d moved to Wales and came back here. The Time Bank was the first place I came to as I wanted to be able to do things for others.
“Having done all sorts of art things before, including weaving tapestries, I came here and have started doing an arts afternoon with the group.
“People can just come along to do whatever it is they are interested in, from making decorations for Christmas to quilt-making, I’ve been amazed by some of the things they are able to do.”
Fellow member Roger Sked, of Midhurst, who works in the building industry, is also finding the group rewarding: “I’ve just done a few things like fixing curtains for people and in return I’ve had some lessons in making marmalade and I’ve now got some orders in for it.
“I just think it has a good ethos of helping people out.”
Retired Midhurst resident Joy du Pre also welcomes the group’s work and believes it serves a strong social and practical purpose.
“I think it’s a really important group and hope it will continue. It would be a great loss to the area if it didn’t.
“ I think a lot of people have found it a source of friends and I like the fact there’s no money involved in it. The Time Bank has a Big Society feel about it, with people helping each other.”
Sylvia Gill, also of Midhurst, says the group has been ‘absolutely wonderful’ and a great support to her since her husband died recently. Through its Wednesday afternoon sessions at its base at St Ann’s Centre in St Ann’s Hill, she receives valuable companionship.
“I just used to come and have a cup of coffee when my husband was having care as he suffered from dementia. The group has really helped me with things like taking me to the doctor’s. In return I’ve been doing things like teaching people to play scrabble and I’ve been very grateful for the assistance I’ve had,” adds the pensioner, who is one of the scheme’s most vocal advocates.