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From strangers to family: heartwarming tales of Salford neighbourly love

Despite research showing that neighbourly love is at a low ebb, a heartwarming story of community has emerged from Salford.
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Transforming Communities in Salford

In Salford, a remarkable story emerged featuring Christine Sherburne, a retired teacher who took the initiative to reach out to her neighbours in 2020 during the lockdown.

Sherburne organised a socially-distanced gathering to uplift spirits, resulting in stronger connections among neighbours who had not interacted closely in decades.

Encouraged by their newfound camaraderie, they collaborated to transform the alleyway behind their houses into a social space for children and adults to enjoy playtime, gatherings, and gardening.

Since then, the community has organised Big Lunch street parties, picnics, Christmas socials, and various other neighbourly activities.

Moreover, the neighbours have warmly welcomed Ukrainian refugees, who have eagerly participated and shared aspects of their culture with the community.

Inspired by her success, Christine Sherburne has gone on to work with Salford City Council and other volunteers in the wider community to rescue and revitalise a partially abandoned building for the benefit of the broader community.

Christine Sherburne expressed, “My motivation was to bring people together, and now I feel like I have a family here.

“It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s remarkable what positivity can accomplish!”

The story of Christine Sherburne and her efforts to foster a tight-knit community aligns with the objectives of Eden Project Communities and other organisations supporting the Month of Community.

Less Than Half of UK Adults Engage in Neighbourly Acts

Despite this, a new study released today has shed light on the state of neighbourliness in the UK, revealing that less than half of all adults in the country (46%) believe that people are coming together to improve their local communities.

The research, conducted by Eden Project Communities, also found that only a similar proportion of individuals (45%) engage in favours or exchanges with their neighbours, despite the current strain on household budgets due to the cost of living crisis, which has seen increases in rent, mortgages, fuel, and food costs.

Eden Project Communities, a key partner behind the Month of Community initiative in June, which aims to promote local connections and support good causes, conducted research to explore attitudes towards neighbourliness.

The initiative is part of a year-round program focused on building social capital on a large scale, made possible by The National Lottery.

Lindsey Brummitt, Programme Director of Eden Project Communities, highlighted the disparity between community participation and the benefits that strong local connections bring.

Brummitt stated that while there are indications of traditional neighbourly activities resurfacing amidst the pandemic, there is a significant opportunity for many individuals to cultivate local support networks that could help them better cope with the challenges of the cost of living crisis.

The independent research, which was representative of the nation and conducted in the latter two weeks of May 2023, also revealed some positive findings.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents agreed that their local neighbourhoods were friendly, while the sense of belonging to immediate communities had increased by five percentage points since 2019, reaching 67% in 2023.

Additionally, an even higher percentage (74%) expressed trust in their neighbours, with 71% feeling safe in their local neighbourhoods.

The study further highlighted the significant impact of community events. Among those who organised a Big Lunch event in their area, 81% reported a positive impact on their community, and 75% indicated a greater willingness to dedicate their time to help neighbours and support good causes.

Building Trust and Safety

Loneliness remains a prevalent issue, with approximately 27.6 million adults in the UK stating that they often or sometimes feel lonely, an increase of five percentage points from 2019 to 40% in 2023.

Earlier this month, comedian John Bishop, an ambassador for the Month of Community, visited space2grow in Farnham, Surrey.

The project organised a Big Lunch event to celebrate local connections and unveiled a new Say Hello-friendly bench during Loneliness Awareness Week and The Great Big Green Week.

The bench now serves as a meeting spot where people can pause amidst the greenery, strike up conversations, and make new friends.

Month of Community

John Bishop, reflecting on his visit, expressed his pride in the involvement of Say Hello in the Month of Community.

He encouraged people across the country to organise Big Lunch events or simply take the time to engage with their community, recognising the importance of human connections and the power of community warmth.

The Month of Community, an annual partnership of various causes throughout June, provides an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate the elements that make communities great.

Through events and initiatives spanning Volunteers Week, Carers Week, The Great Big Green Week, Refugee Week, and Small Charity Week, individuals can connect with neighbours, express gratitude to volunteers, raise awareness about loneliness, or simply offer thanks.

The centrepiece of the Month of Community is The Big Lunch, which encourages people to gather and either celebrate a good cause they care about or fundraise for it.

Lindsey Brummitt concluded by emphasising the importance of strengthening neighbourhood relationships and investing time in communities.

Eden Project Communities remains dedicated to assisting people in their community-building endeavours, not only during the Month of Community but throughout the year. Individuals interested in staying informed about updates and ideas to foster community spirit can visit edenprojectcommunities.com.

For more information about the Month of Community and The Big Lunch, please click here.

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