Vibrant communities enrich us all and need to be strengthened

Everyone in the UK is invited to a nationwide party in June. It is intended, say organisers, as both a celebration of the Queen’s platinum jubilee and an opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has contributed to helping the country through the trauma of the last two years. As well as high-profile individuals backing what is being called Thank You Day, the list of supporting organisations include the Scouts, the NHS, Paralympics GB, Natural England, Rotary and St John Ambulance. The word ‘community’ keeps popping up: the actor Ross Kemp, for example, talks of “the people in our own lives – families, streets and communities, who we rely on every day.” Vibrant communities are important: they nurture and enrich us as individual human beings. Today, more than ever, we need to raise the profile of community education to ensure that our children and young people have the knowledge, skills and values to contribute positively to community life — to the mutual benefit of both.

Sunday 5 June — the final day of a four-day UK bank holiday weekend from Thursday to Sunday (2–5 June) — is Thank You Day. The extended bank holiday is intended to enable communities and people throughout the UK to come together to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

We’re getting together as friends, families, neighbours and communities, to raise a glass to The Queen for 70 years outstanding service, and say a great big thank you to each other as well.

Let’s do it in style. Make sure everyone is included, get the school band to play, invite the next street over.

from the official Thank You Day website.

The first Thank You Day was in July 2021. Under the headline ‘Rediscovering our community spirit’, the official website says that “millions of people came together to connect with their communities and say thanks. From neighbours to nurses, and best mates to mums, we all had someone to say thank you to.” The website also says that:

  • two million people took part in events or activities
  • 63% said it helped them meet someone new in their area
  • 62% said it helped them feel more positive about their local area
  • 47% said they were now more likely to speak to their neighbours after having attended an event

Community spirit and community mindedness, particularly among young people, was a welcome focus of the recent Queen’s new year honours list in the UK. The following young people, whose efforts are summarised in this article, set a wonderful example for people of all ages to follow:

Max Woosey, 12, has camped out for what is now nearly two years to raise around £600,000 so far for North Devon Hospice, which cared for his neighbour who died of cancer in 2020.

Tobias Garbutt Weller, 11, was inspired by the example set by Captain Sir Tom Moore to complete two marathons and an Ironman challenge despite being unable to walk unaided. Tobias, who is autistic and has cerebral palsy, has raised more than £150,000, after starting fundraising at the age of nine.

Sahil Usman, 16, delivered essential items to vulnerable people in Blackburn while undergoing treatment for leukaemia. He has also done work to promote awareness of cancer among young people.

Muhammad Kamil Ali, 19, is described as “a tutoring machine”. He regularly supported young people whose education was disrupted during the pandemic.

In October we blogged in praise of a group of young people whose work on promoting mental health “encapsulates two ideas that underpin LBL thinking: participation (that getting involved and doing something is a good thing and is itself beneficial to mental health) and empowerment (encouraging and enabling young people themselves to take a lead).”

In September we saluted all the young people — many of whom don’t get the recognition they deserve — “whose astonishing achievements serve as an example and an inspiration for us all, whatever stage of life we are at.”

Any long-term strategy to build stronger communities must involve looking at what we are teaching children in school. Life-Based Learning (LBL) would raise the profile of community by treating it as one of nine equal themes through which all subject learning can be delivered.

Life-Based Learning aims to organise learning around the modern-day challenges we face. The themes of Relationships and Community sit within a broader category called Society: crucial to human life and living is the ability to relate to — and interact positively with — others, be it family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues or wider society.

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