As an ACORN Community Organiser I lead a rich and varied life!
Whilst based in Newcastle, I have spent the last two weeks in Bristol – talking to people in the Redcliffe area of the city.
I have been welcomed into people’s homes. I have been moved to laughter and to tears. But most importantly, I have heard people’s stories.
Stories of success and stories of struggle. Reflections on times gone by as well as hopes and fears for the future. I have been struck by the honesty and humility of the people I have met as well as their huge capacity to care about the needs of those around them.
We are living in tough times – that is a fact. Unemployment is high, benefits are being cut. Public services are being slashed. The list goes on. Everyone of us has been affected by the crippling effects of “austerity” – some of us more than others. In the face of these challenges it is easy to feel alone. We can quickly feel helpless. We can become silent.
“Things will never change”. “There is nothing we can do about it”. “That is just the way it is”. If we hear these things enough times we could begin to believe they are true – that we are powerless to do anything to change our lives for the better.
But that is not the case.
Yes - one voice can be drowned out. But not 50 voices. Nor 100 voices. And just imagine 1,000 voices - speaking in unison, as one. That is a powerful voice!
Imagine working with your neighbours and friends to build a community that worked for YOU. Imagine having enough power to make sure that your voice was heard by the people that matter - every time you spoke.
That is what forming a community union allows us to do. By uniting neighbour with neighbour, street with street, we can build the platform we need to create a fairer society.
What has struck me most about working in Redcliffe is not the differences between the people I have met, but the similarities. Everybody wants to live in a safe and enriching community. Everybody wants a chance to work hard and provide for their families. I did not meet one single person who said “I don’t care about where I live”. But I did meet hundreds of people who said “I want my community to do well”.
On 8th April, at 6.30pm, the residents of Redcliffe can meet at the Community Centre to launch their very own community union. They will come together to share their experiences and their common concerns. But more than this – they will pledge to work together. They will pledge to make their voice heard. They will pledge to take action on the things that matter to them.
And they will make a difference.