It takes a village?

Over the past few weeks Jon and I have caught up on Channel 4’s Village of the Year programme, which highlights communities across the UK as they vie for the coveted title. It’s certainly given us plenty of ideas for places to visit—indeed, we’ve already booked a weekend away at one of the finalists! But besides inspiring travel plans, the show has also gotten me thinking: how do you spark a community spirit in a town as large as Chippenham?

Because the villages that were showcased were engaged. They took pride in where they lived and their surroundings. They looked to the future while retaining a connection to their past. They provided support to each other, sought to make improvements where necessary, and had fun while doing so.

Or look at the outpouring of support that was witnessed just last week during the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, as people rushed to bring food and bedding to those trapped in their cars, or went out in 4x4s to rescue those stranded by the weather.  Every time there is an extreme weather event or unexpected incident, the media is full of such stories of people stepping in to fulfil a need and make things a little bit better. How can we harness this power year round as there is always something that could be done to make our communities better places to live and work?

After all, volunteering has been shown to increase happiness levels and well-being. To paraphrase the musical Avenue Q, when you help others, you can’t help helping yourself … or your community. So if you have any ideas how to answer these questions—how we can have the engagement of a village in a town as large as Chippenham or capture the feel-good factor of helping year round—please pop by the Great British Spring Clean on 24th
March in Monkton Park between 10:00am and noon, or drop me a line at hello@off-the-ground.org.

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