Last week the Love Your Neighbour campaign held a Week of Kindness, encouraging people across the city to plan small acts of kindness towards others in their neighbourhood.
We’ve been involved in Love Your Neighbour since its launch in the summer, and we loved the idea of a Week of Kindness, so we had a vote in the office and came up with two events. On Wednesday, Managers Jane and Michelle, together with Health Trainer Wayne and volunteer Caroline, visited a local hostel with some little gifts to give to people; and on Friday, a group of staff went out into the streets around the Gateway office to hand out hot drinks and snacks to anyone who wanted them.
Wednesday: chocs and chats at a local hostel
Wednesday’s visit to the homeless centre was really interesting. It’s a place we have quite a lot of contact with anyway, as we often work with people who have housing issues, but despite our experience there were still some surprises – not least the varied mix of people who were at the centre: from single mums with children, to married couples, older single women and a lot of non-English-speaking residents who hadn’t been in the country very long and were new to Birmingham.
It’s important for us to have an up-to-date knowledge of the issues that people in Birmingham are facing, so that we can adapt the services we offer and respond to need as quickly and usefully as possible. So it was really good to spend some time with staff and visitors to the hostel, and have a proper chat over a cuppa.
What’s more, we were also able to offer direct support to some of the people we met. Despite their stressful experiences, seven people who’d dropped in that day signed up with Wayne to receive one-to-one support from a Gateway Health Trainer, which is great.
Friday: hot drinks and help at Five Ways
On Friday a larger group of staff went out for our second Week of Kindness event, taking hot drinks and snacks to give out on the streets around our office. We’ve noticed an increasing number of people sleeping rough recently so we also took some gloves, hats, socks, scarves and a couple of blankets in case we met people who might need them.
One of the people we met was a man called Keith who had slept rough the night before, so we got chatting about the options available to him. Thanks to our staff’s knowledge of services in the area, we were able to tell him about the cold weather provision at the William Booth Centre in town.
After spending some time in the underpasses at Five Ways we moved on to a very busy spot outside Morrisons. The weather was freezing so it was good to be able to offer passers-by some hot drinks! Thanks to all the staff who took part.
The Love Your Neighbour campaign
Anyone and everyone can get involved with Love Your Neighbour. In fact, that’s exactly what it relies on. The idea is just to start thinking about getting to know the people around us a bit better, with the hope that it might help to combat loneliness and prejudice.
The Love Your Neighbour campaign says,
Over many generations people have made the UK their home, built it up and found they can belong here. But we cannot take our diversity for granted. It is no use sharing a street or a suburb with people from different backgrounds if we do not know them. Loneliness is at epidemic levels, prejudice threatens to pull communities apart.
We cannot love our neighbour if we do not know our neighbour, understand them, their culture and identity. We all need to build friendships that cement our society together, crossing differences that can become barriers such as age, social background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and faith – working for peace alongside all people of goodwill.
Love Your Neighbour started in Birmingham, but we’re glad to see it’s starting to spread across the country. It’s a simple message but a very positive one… something we all need at the moment!