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Community Building From Stanwix to Somalia

In many forgotten corners of the world such as Carlisle, there are communities like Stanwix. Only problem is… they’ve forgotten they’re communities. As is often the case; while half a dozen faithful souls strive to regenerate the facilities that lie at the centre; the community as a whole just sits back oblivious to the dire state of the collapsing fabric around them.. It’s time for a change folks!

Community Association Frustration

Community building is probably one of the most important activities that any group of people can engage in. It can be a frustrating path to follow though, as this example illustrates. Stanwix – the real, original Stanwix is a suburb of Carlisle in Cumbria. You can still find it in the wild and untamed border lands just before you get to Gretna Gateway ;-). After an ambitious year of trying to coordinate the rebuilding of the old post war prefabricated hut that served as a community hut and base for after school clubs, I think it would be safe to say that they failed: due to a lack of support from the community they were serving.

The symptoms are probably familiar across the world, whether you are in Surrey, Somalia or Springfield Massachusetts. At the monthly meetings, if you are lucky, perhaps half a dozen people turn up to manage complex projects that would tax full time professional teams. Your aim may be to rebuild a couple of huts that serve as your community’s hub.
It wouldn’t matter whether your target was raising something like £140,000 to replace a few huts or $60 to fund a bare foot nurse for a month; recruiting “the community” into the fund raising or involvement efforts; often results in a deafening silence. I sometimes wonder if the majority of people deserve the effort of the small groups of activists around the world, who have tried their hardest to steer projects to successful conclusions.

It’s very understandable that there are a variety of reasons why it is not easy to contribute to the often painfully tedious meetings and odd jobs that need doing. In the third world, involvement may mark you out as a target for the local flavour of insurgent murderer. In the more developed world, it’s a more complex picture. People are all busy – bringing up families who need attention and where the value system revolves much more around the concept of fulfilment rather than actually staying alive and under the bad guy’s radar. Most of us are all absolutely knackered after a day at work, trying to find work or trying to keep our businesses afloat in the current financial crap storm and it’s sometimes hard to see the importance of the “community”.

It’s the Same the Whole World Over – ish!

Here’s the thing though, we all have to survive and try to thrive in the environment in which we find ourselves. Whether it’s a playgroup or an after school club we are trying to promote; whether it’s a woman’s collective trying to get some kind of quality of life in a collapsing West African State or a small group of priests doing their best to bring some sort of hope to abused street kids: we all need the backing of a community.

Around the world, all that’s needed is always the same: a few more bodies to take on the tasks that need doing. Sometimes these tasks seem complex, but are actually trivial, as in the example of Stanwix. All too frequently, those tasks are far from trivial and carry enormous risks for those brave souls who are prepared to take them on in places such as Somalia or South Africa. Whatever the circumstances happen to be; it needs support from the people on the ground!