We are delighted to have started facilitating our ABCD (see main body of the website for information on this approach) work, with a small group of people who live in the Bedford Ward of Wandsworth. This blog is intending to share a little of what went on at our first meeting, held in a local social club, one evening last week.
However, before we do that, one of the main aims of our blog (and indeed of the ABCD movement) is to share stories and we heard one last week that we all found touching. One of the members of our group had recently met an older Polish gentleman (there is a long established Polish community within the Borough) who had stated that he was a 101 years old. Our friend said he simply could not believe that to be the case at which, without further ado, the older gentleman went across to his bed, fished about under the pillow and came back , proudly bearing a greeting from the Queen for the occasion of his 100th birthday. We all felt quite moved by this story – simple in itself and yet within this account lies a whole history, and, in all probability a very complex story, which presumably encompasses leaving his own country, possibly fighting under another country’s flag, making a new life in a new place, becoming part of local community...?
Somewhere within this story is the core of what we hope to achieve through Vintage Communities. We believe that older people – all people of course, but our focus is on those who are older – come bearing gifts. Sadly these gifts, talents, experiences and skills all too often get overlooked or ignored and that is not only to the detriment of the individuals concerned but is a loss to the community as a whole.
So, having both become more and more convinced by, and enthused with, the theory of the ABCD movement – at last we are being given the opportunity to try these ideas and methods and put them into practice.
We met with 6 people, a small group but deliberately so. A critical part of the ABCD approach is to meet up with those people within a neighbourhood who know what is going on and who to contact (the connectors) and this was our initial group in Wandsworth, and what a group of people. We began by listing the skills they brought to the table. These were fascinating in their range and depth, from dog walking to speaking German, advocacy support to appreciation of the arts, boxing to organising a street party; and much more beyond!
Then we moved on to talking about what people felt was good and positive about living in the area and what might be areas for improvement. Again, a key feature of the ABCD approach is that it is for those who live in a place to identify what works and what could be better – it is not our job to tell anyone how things go in their own community.
From there we went on to discuss what sort of opportunities there might be, that could help to address some of the areas that people felt could or should be improved. We began to map (using a map of the Ward provided by the local Council – thank you Eric) the assets within the Ward, the churches, businesses, housing, but also, and perhaps most importantly the potential connectors.
Towards the very end of the session – and we felt we had packed an awful lot into just 2 hours – we started to talk about what things the people present felt motivated and passionate about and would want to work towards improving. These included setting up intergenerational and international cooking classes, helping people who live in rented housing to feel more included and reducing the loneliness and isolation of older people.
We have agreed to meet again in about 3 weeks. For the next meeting everyone is going to try and bring at least one other person who can begin to widen the network of contacts and connectors. We also want people to think through how we can use the Vintage process and approach to strengthen community ties, help people make new connections, and include those groups that are felt to be out in the cold. So – there’s a lot to think about and do, and our thanks to the people who met with us, listened carefully and contributed enormously. It felt like a great start.
We are trying out something that for us is different and new, and we want to make our learning available to anyone who is interested.
Next time we will write a little about what we are beginning to learn about using the ABCD approach in practical terms, and how people react to it.
For now, please contact us if you have questions comments or ideas, and we will do our utmost to respond to them.
Deborah and Marc September 27th 2012.
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