Our currency is time

14 May 2019 | North West England

Our time - Dennis

Brilliant project battles isolation as members swap skills for free.

A brilliant scheme where you can offer your services to others for free, in exchange for help from other members in your area is bringing communities together in Liverpool.

Our Time, a project developed by Richmond Fellowship, a national mental health charity aims to tackle social isolation faced by adults with mental health problems by helping them engage with their local community, access services and rebuild their confidence.

The project is essentially a ‘time bank’, made up of members who receive one credit for every hour they give to help others. Credits are earned by providing services and then can be spent buying services from other members.

As well as feeling valued, sharing skills and learning new ones, members save money by getting simple DIY and decorating jobs done for free.

Team manager Cath Lee explained; “The only currency is time, and it is the most precious commodity because people actually have to give up their time.

“All our members have some kind of mental health issue. Whether that is stress and anxiety disorders right through to severe and enduring disorders - something most of us go through at some point in our lives.

“But being involved in ‘Our Time’ gives a sense of purpose, of feeling needed and useful. A lot of the time when people are isolated you can think, ‘well nobody needs me, I’ve nothing to offer’, but when people start to engage, it is wonderful to see them reclaiming their lives.”

Our Time also holds monthly coffee socials where members can meet each other and trade skills.

Denis McDermot, 50, joined the scheme after being introduced by a friend. The music teacher thought he could offer lessons or help with repairing instruments. However, things went into another direction.

He said: “I thought I might be asked for help with tuition or instrument repair. But that has not been the case. So I have helped in other areas. One lady really needed her door painting. I didn’t have a clue but I went online and looked it up on YouTube. It seemed pretty straightforward, so I offered my help. It was actually really rewarding and I now have a new skill."

“Other people like to be accompanied to a doctor’s appointment or even something simple like a walk or going for a coffee. I am more than happy to help.”

Denis added: “For me it was very reassuring to know that I had something to offer. However small it may seem, to a person who needs it, it’s far bigger.”

In return Denis received help removing clutter from his house. “I knew I had a problem, it was building up and becoming a bit overwhelming. So I put an appeal out there and three members turned up to help. We filled up lots of bags of clutter. I also had this old fridge I needed to get rid of, but I don’t drive so one of the members helped me get it in his car so I could take it to the dump.

“I know that if ‘Our Time’ wasn’t around, none of this would not have been sorted. So I am so grateful. It is great there is a project that can help. Schemes like this bring us back together and it certainly has had a positive effect on my mental health.

“People might not have money to give but they do have time. If you think of time as a funding resource, suddenly people seem to be very wealthy.”

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