Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much – Helen Keller.
As we are coming to the end of a difficult and rather challenging year, I wanted to reflect on community – specifically how communities have come together during the pandemic, and how our charity, Wimbledon Community Association (WCA,) works towards supporting, connecting and strengthening community venues and local communities across Merton.
What does community actually mean – to you, to me? I have listed three definitions that I could relate to most in the context of what we, at the WCA, do:
- Community is all the people who live in a particular area or place.
- A particular community is a group of people who are similar in some way.
- Community is friendship between different people or groups, and a sense of having something in common. (Collins Dictionary)
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have witnessed local communities in Merton come together; neighbours have been connecting and looking out for each other, more so than usual, and both informal and formal groups have organised to support vulnerable people in need. Nationally, there are now over 2000 groups listed on the Mutual Aid website. Many people have stepped up as volunteers – in the NHS, community hubs and local charities.
Whilst COVID-19 has brought tremendous hardship, loss, and anxiety to many of us, there has been a silver lining regarding its social impacts, notably a steady increase in community spirit since the start of the pandemic. Research carried out by the Office of National Statistics shows that by June 2020:
- Nearly two thirds of adults said that other local community members would support them if they needed help.
- Three in four adults thought people were doing more to help others.
- Nearly two in three adults checked in on neighbours who might need help.
- Over one in three adults had gone shopping or done other tasks for neighbours in the previous week. (Gov.UK; The Community Response to COVID-19, Blog, June 2020)
Not everyone can contribute to or benefit from neighbourhood actions, and the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) has always played a major role in reaching people who need support but may not be able to engage with the local networks to access it. This has never been more evident than in times like this.
How then does the WCA, a small, local charity, benefit its members and local communities in Merton?
For nearly 75 years, the WCA has put Community at the heart of everything it does. As a membership organisation, WCA supports its members (currently community venues and user groups in Merton) by actively promoting community space, its people, events, activities, and services. Our online community hub, Wimblecomm(unity), aims to connect people with places and their passions.
Community spaces and the people who work there are key in bringing together local communities – think lunch clubs, playgroups, fitness classes, youth clubs, arts and craft classes, rehearsals and so much more. The pandemic has pushed many of Merton’s community venues and their people to their limit, but the clear sense of community and the belief that we are stronger together has given many hope for the future.
Wimblecomm benefits Merton communities by sharing information on these community venues and associated events/activities (both on-site and online,) helping venues to attract hirers and users of their space (thus contributing to the generation of rental income and continued viability,) and helping communities to find these spaces and see what they offer.
In addition to our venue/space directories and our events calendar, we publish a blog, Wimblecomm Spotlights which showcase venues and celebrate community leadership, community news, and a COVID-19 hub, as well as a quarterly newsletter Community Bytes. Members of local communities and anyone who is interested in what we do, and all things Merton are encouraged to visit Wimblecomm, connect with us (via the contact form, email, phone and Social Media) and subscribe to our newsletter. You can submit ideas and content for guest blogs, and we would love for you to join our team in a volunteering capacity. People looking for a space to hire can also connect with venues directly via our venue enquiry form.
Apart from running Wimblecomm, we connect different groups, provide adhoc support to venues and other organisations/groups in Merton on a wide range of projects and initiatives, produce/share surveys and online resources, whilst actively developing our (collaborative) community of venues through webinars, (Zoom) networking gatherings, regular e-bulletins and our group page for members on Facebook.
Since the start of the pandemic, it’s become increasingly clear that Wimblecomm, as a virtual space, and charity can add real value to its members and the local communities. When physical community space had to go through the ups and downs of COVID-19 lockdowns, our virtual space remained available for sharing content, and connected people and groups throughout the pandemic.
Community matters, now more so than ever. We at WCA are committed to further developing and strengthening our members’ community and the local communities of Merton. To help us support you the best we can, if you are already a (venue) member, please consider:
- Ensuring your space listing(s) on Wimblecomm is/are up-to-date, making full use of our COVID-19 section.
- Submitting your and your hirers’ events and news so we can help you promote these to the people in Merton.
- Displaying the Wimblecomm membership badge.
- Sharing our postcard flyer and new Wimblecomm video with your hirers, users and local communities.
- Reminding your hirers that they can advertise on Wimblecomm at highly competitive rates.
- Contributing to surveys and other requests for information.
- Attending our webinars and Zoom gatherings.
- Making full use of our new Members-Only Group Page on Facebook – aimed at sharing news, resources and requests for/offers of help.
- Helping us, our partners, and other venues on adhoc initiatives and projects.
- Sharing ideas and writing content for our guest blogs and spotlight sections. We also love to publish your Vlogs!
- Share your feedback – about Wimblecomm and our services, and ask for help.
If you operate a community venue in Merton and are not yet a member of the Wimblecomm Community Association, please get in touch! And, if you agree that together we can do more, how can you join our community and make a real difference for the community spaces and their people in Merton?
We look forward to hearing from you and connecting with you further in the near future.
Written by Susanne Ollig