The co-ordinator of a new time bank volunteering scheme is hoping to help borough residents reap the rewards of helping their neighbours and strengthen community bonds.
Jo Perkins has recently joined the team behind Time Swap, a project which has been running across Derbyshire for around 18 months.
Backed by the county council and social care group Wellbeing Erewash, the initiative invites members of the community to volunteer their time and abilities to help others - and earn time and assistance in return.
Jo said: “The voluntary sector is really thriving in Erewash, but what we’re doing is different. Everyone who contributes gets something back, and there are endless ways to contribute.
“It might be proofreading a letter, or a quick bit of DIY - or it might be as simple as having a cup of tea and a chat with someone who’s home alone.”
Every time people give an hour to the scheme, they bank an hour of other people’s time for future use which can be ‘cashed in’ at any time.
Jo said: “It might be that you know there’s a week every spring when your allotment goes crazy - you could bank a whole team of assistants.
“As more people get involved, we are able to tackle bigger jobs and more unusual requests. We recently had someone ask if anyone could come round and play the organ for them - we’re working on that one!”
All time exchanges are organised by Jo, who carries out basic vetting on volunteers to ensure that jobs are done properly and safely, and give people peace of mind.
The project currently has around 50 people signed up, clustered around two groups in Ilkeston and Long Eaton.
Jo’s ambition is to grow both of those numbers, and hopes to establish groups around areas such as Sawley, Cotmanhay and Ockbrook.
She is approaching the task with the benefit of experience, having worked for the environmental charity Groundwork Derbyshire for 13 years, and then on projects at the University of Leicester.
Jo said: “It’s important that people don’t feel this is a demanding thing - lots of people are already busy, and volunteering can seem like another added stress. It’s a lovely bit of give and take.
“As well as the time you get back, you’ll also get a monthly newsletter with our success stories and you might build new relationships with the people around you.”
Jo is also sensitive to the local economy:“We don’t want to compete with small businesses, or suggest that some work isn’t worth paying for. This is about odd jobs, maybe where there isn’t a market for them,” she said.
“We have a lot of isolated people sat in their homes. We want to make connections within communities to make them stronger, and encourage more people to get active.”
Jo is building up the network through groups like the U3A, 50 Plus and the WI - all good for the important word-of-mouth publicity.
Jo said: “My mum gets in a pickle when she has to call the gas company, so I have to be there to help. I’m sure she’s not the only one who has something like that.
“If she heard about Time Swap on the radio she might think it was more intimidating than it is. Whatever your situation, nobody should feel they have nothing to offer. We have all sorts of opportunities and adapt to your needs.”
To find out more, call 01629 532049, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/timeswap.
The Ilkeston and Long Eaton groups also hold monthly meet-ups to swap tasks and chat over tea and biscuits.
The next Ilkeston meeting is on Monday December 5, 11am to noon, at the Cantelupe Centre, Market Place. The Long Eaton session is on Thursday December 8, 1pm-2pm, at the town’s library.