Paxton Green Time Bank (PGTB, a registered charity) is now nine years old and recognised as one of the best time banks in the country, but still there are many local people who don’t know about it – or even what time banking is and the benefits it can bring to individuals and the community.
To explain briefly, time banking believes everyone has something to offer, whether a skill or just time to be with someone. Members offer to help other members on a one-to one basis or volunteer in a local charity and “bank” the hours they gave. They can then “spend” those hours on help for themselves, or on training opportunities, workshops, social events, or special outings. Among the three hundred members of PGTB there are over 150 different skills on offer, for example: learning Arabic or chess, dog walking, computer support, gardening, befriending, shopping, de-cluttering. All skills are valued equally: an hour is an hour is an hour.
A personal example: I helped one member whose first language was not English fill in an on-line job application, helped another with poor eyesight to sort her paperwork, and taught a third how to make chutney. I have spent some of my hours on having my car cleaned (a job I hate!) and another having a delicious Lebanese lunch cooked for me.
Essentially, therefore, time banking is a cashless economy which enables even those who have few monetary resources to partake more fully in society and enjoy what many of us take for granted. Need your windows cleaned? Need some decorating done? Brush up your German? Get your computer fixed? None of these comes free in everyday society.
By taking part in time banking, people get to know their neighbours and make friends in a way which has become rarer in today’s frenetic society, and which helps build a stronger, safer community. It goes further: it is based on co-production which means that members do much of the organising themselves, setting up and running group activities. This builds confidence and skills which can be preparation for returning to work. The small staff at the one-room office in Kingswood House on the Kingswood Estate support the members with modest help as needed.
Time banking has a side benefit for the NHS: many people who might be lonely, impoverished, or depressed may feel useless and unvalued. Being able to contribute, even in small ways, does wonders for well-being and improves health, both mental and physical. In fact, PGTB was set up by GPs at the Paxton Green practice who realised that many patients were looking for social contact as much as a repeat prescription. Recently published research found that around 20% of visits come in this category, a sad reflection on our society, and one which PGTB is addressing in a practical, low cost way.
Our membership now extends beyond Dulwich into disadvantaged areas of Southwark and Lambeth where we have set up hubs – mini time banks – again helping individuals and strengthening local communities.
To learn more visit www.pgtimebank.org , or to join call 8670 0990 to speak to a member of staff.