PRESS RELEASE 19/5/2015: ‘52 Things’ campaign highlights vital work of volunteers

AS VOLUNTEERS are relied on more and more across the country to provide services for their community, villagers in North Yorkshire are pulling together in an effort to raise vital funds to keep services alive.

It is no easy feat being a regular volunteer or part of a management committee on a group project, as is identified in the new Rural Action Yorkshire campaign ‘52 (Almost) Painless Things Your Community Can Do.’ The charity hopes to draw attention to the pressures facing volunteers in times of severe cuts to public funding, at the same time as provide inspiration and motivate them to try new ideas.

The campaign takes its name from the concept that no new project is without a lot of hard work and enthusiasm, new ideas can undergo a painful process as they come to fruition, and ask a lot of the volunteers involved. But as has become apparent through the campaign, 52 Things has found that this work almost always pays off, and communities are made even brighter, more vibrant and resilient places to live, often due to the humbling efforts of their volunteers.

In the list of 52 ideas for rural communities, number 38 describes how to run an ‘Open Gardens’ event, as inspired by the community of Kirkby Fleetham in North Yorkshire. Volunteers here, having recently taken over the running of their village hall, quickly discovered that this was a relatively straightforward way of raising funds and bringing different groups of people together.

It is based around members of the village making their gardens open to the public for a day, providing them with maps, selling refreshments, and allowing people to make their way around on a garden tour, hopefully during a hot summer’s day.

The purpose of the Open Gardens in this instance was to raise money for the village hall extension, but on a larger scale it was to encourage cross-participation between the three villages that made up the parish, encouraging them to join in with each other’s events and work together more often for the greater good.

The village hall worked with the local Church to pull off the event, sharing responsibilities such as planning and catering.

Jean Morley, an active volunteer in the community who worked on the project, explained: “We hoped for at least 6 gardens to sign up for the day, but we were delighted to have 9. This was more than enough for our visitors to walk around on a warm July weekend. It worked really well when we worked together with the Church too and we have subsequently done more events with them. We share the profits!”

In Kirkby Fleetham the Open Gardens is now an annual event, raising considerable funds for the running of the village hall, meaning in turn that services for the community can continue. It is all down to the hard work of the people involved, and their enthusiasm for what they do.

Kirkby Fleetham Village Hall in particular has been widely successful in recent years at reinvigorating their community with fresh ideas and perspective. Over 18 months they have raised £30,000 locally from different activities and another £50,000 from grants and funding to go towards their new extension, set to open this Spring.

Leah Swain, Chief Officer at Rural Action Yorkshire who is running 52 Things, said: “Without volunteers it is difficult to imagine what would happen to our vibrant communities, but it is likely that services and activities, and that sense of community spirit, would fall by the wayside.

“People like Jean and all of the other fantastic volunteers we have spoken to as part of the campaign demonstrate why it is important to continue to support our rural communities and empower them to take their dreams forward. RAY is here to help with that, and we hope the campaign and its stories will inspire others to try new things and implement new ideas to benefit their whole village.”

Volunteers like Jean are up front about the work involved in running new projects, and that this work can often fall on the shoulders of the few. There will always be issues in recruiting more people or finding extra manpower, but it is important not to underestimate the expertise that already exists in your midst.

Jean said: “One thing we have learned is that most people in our community will do anything to help if asked. They may not volunteer, but ask them for something specific, play to their strengths, and they are fantastic.”

For more stories and more information on the 52 Things campaign and how RAY can help you, visit www.ruralyorkshire.org.uk.

  

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Editor’s Notes

Photos attached to email.

Media contact: Candice Dowson, Marketing/PR Officer & Campaign Manager, Rural Action Yorkshire tel. 0845 313 0270.

52 (Almost) Painless Things Your Community Can Do

52 Things was launched by Rural Action Yorkshire in February 2015 and aims to inspire communities to try something new. This could be a new project, group or activity in their village. The campaign’s name is taken from the idea that hard work and willing volunteers are involved in getting any new project off the ground, and 52 Things seeks to highlight the efforts of these unsung community heroes.

Rural Action Yorkshire

Based at Askham Bryan, near York, RAY is one of 38 Rural Community Councils in England.  It isan independent, charitable, and voluntary organisation working across rural areas of North, South and West Yorkshire, to help communities improve the quality of life for all people living and working in rural Yorkshire.

RAY enables and empowers communities to develop the confidence to help themselves, and to ensure their needs are heard by policy makers and service providers – on a local, regional and national scale. Key work includes:

*Offering support, training, events and resources on everything affecting life in a rural area

*Help with funding, running community buildings, and staying up to date with the latest legislation

*Assisting with the implementation of Community Led Plans, which identify the strengths and weaknesses of an area and plan the future of community development work.

RAY and the other 37 rural community councils across England form the national ACRE Network (Action with Communities in Rural England). Find Rural Action Yorkshire online at www.ruralyorkshire.org.uk and Twitter @RuralYorkshire