Many years ago when my partner and I decided to move to South Leicestershire , after living for ten years on the edge of a large city, we faced a number of challenges.
He expected to be working full time for some years. I was already retired so would not have the structure of a job around me and would need to meet people and find things to do.
We looked at several beautiful villages around the county with gorgeous houses and gardens but the village notice board (if there was one) showed perhaps one meeting per month of the WI or Parish Council, but little else.
So much going on!
Then we came to the centre of Kibworth, where I spotted the library. Someone helpfully offered me the latest issue of the Kibworth and District Chronicle and the newsletter of the recently formed U3A. There was so much going on!
So many groups and organisations
We were really impressed by the number and variety of groups and organisations which were active in Kibworth and its surrounding villages. So much so that within a very short time after moving, a complete stranger was able to make many new friends and find things both interesting and useful to do almost every day of the week (and some evenings!)
Volunteers investing their time
All of these organisations depend upon people volunteering their time and effort to make them work. The investment for many volunteers was clearly considerable but the pay-off was huge. A strong feeling of camaraderie pervaded the village and was often the chief topic we mentioned when family and older friends asked how we were settling in.
Investment recognised by BBC
This spirit was highlighted during the lockdown period when the BBC news programme East Midlands Today used its last five minutes to highlight the amazing work of volunteers all around the region. It was heart warming at the time but of course, as soon as lockdown ended, that feature was closed down and the diet of constantly bad news resumed.
Similarly when I worked for a very large grant making organisation which distributed millions of pounds around the region, we were inundated with press interest for the first round. After that there was almost no coverage unless for example something dreadful had happened on the way to present the cheque!
But, after the lockdown?
Clearly voluntary, community-based work does not usually grab the headlines but I am convinced it forms the life blood of healthy neighbourhoods. I was saddened therefore to hear from many sources that several local groups have been struggling for some time to attract volunteers.
Some groups have folded
Some, for example The History Society and the Kibworth Society have folded completely and I know the drama groups have sometimes been unable to put on shows due to a lack of people coming forward to audition or offer help.
Busy lives for most
Some of this is of course down to the pandemic, but not all. There were reports of dwindling numbers well before 2020. We know most people have busy lives but they won’t always be busy and to spare a few hours a week helping an organisation can pave the way for an easier transition when life stages change, as inevitably they do.
The work of the Wombles, The Well, the U3A and more recently the Welcome Kitchen have been well documented in this paper and apparently widely appreciated. That is to name just a few of the local organisations doing excellent work.
Can you spare a few hours?
Please don’t let us allow any more of them to fold or shrink, due to lack of volunteer support.