Community Building in Brixham

We should never take for granted the strength of our communities in Torbay.

We may have our problems, but we have proved time and again that when the going gets tough, the community gets going. And how.

COVID threw into focus community cohesion, and it continues, not least with our own Community Builders at the epicentre of bringing people together, ensuring those that need help get it are connected with those that can provide it.

But how does a new Community Builder identify those needing help, particularly when they are new on the patch, as happened to Helen Ambler when she arrived in Brixham just three months ago.

At first, she was apprehensive, “I was not sure what to expect, but there was no need to be worried, I received a fabulous welcome and everyone seems to be grateful for the work I do and excited about what was to come,” she said.

“But first I had to explain what Community Builders do, there were some interesting interpretations, not all of them entirely accurate,” she added.

For the first few weeks, she talked to as many people as could spare her the time and discovered not just an enthusiasm for all things Brixham but a deep compassion for both the place and the people who live there.

She discovered that in addition to the many caring organisations in the town, the traders and business people were keen to do their bit. “Many of them are what we call community connectors – they have their ears to the ground and know what is going on and they care,” said Helen.

She also discovered that despite what people were telling her, there was lots going on in Brixham every day of the week: “I have been doing a lot of signposting because I am not here to do other people’s jobs, I am here to create and enhance opportunities, tell people about all the amazing groups and events going on in Brixham and connect people.  The free Brixham Signal is a great resource for finding out what is going on locally.  Also, if there is not a group existing that the community of Brixham would like to be a part of, let’s make one!

I have been able to get people to groups they did not even know about and get lots of people to meet each other.” And she has identified a plethora of opportunities open to everyone.

There is just so much going on, and there are a lot of messages to get out there. Take the Museum., people do not seem to know that it is free. It is volunteer-led and like so many organisations need more so that they can welcome in more school groups and ultimately receive more charitable donations,” explained Helen.

And they are not alone. Shoalstone Pool, Brixham’s gem of an open-air sea-filled pool, is always looking for volunteers to cover everything from regular maintenance, cleaning and fundraising.  Again, it is free and reliant on donations.

The Brixham Theatre – also fully volunteer-led, (they need around ten people to run each show) “They are ambitious, and they do a lot – theatre shows, tribute acts, variety shows all the year round, but they can’t do it without the help of volunteers.

YES! Brixham Charity shop is also volunteer-led and cannot open without the help of volunteers.  And Tom at YES! Brixham is looking for volunteers to help with his YESTIVAL free music festival at Brixham Rugby Club at the end of August.

I am a massive advocate for volunteering – it is a win, win, helps the volunteers, the groups they volunteer for and then the people who enjoy it,” said Helen who has become a cheerleader and recruiter for lots of volunteer led groups in the town.

Already, she has fallen for the place: “I love the community; it is amazing, I have spoken to a few people that needed help and you find that they are already being helped by their neighbours – which is exactly what we as Community Builders strive for – the community being good neighbours to each other and helping each other out.  The place is really well connected, a great vibe but for all that, like anywhere else there are a lot of people that need help,” she concluded.

More from Helen next week, about how she has helped some amazing individuals who needed a little extra help finding their community.

If you’d like to get in touch with her in the meantime, you can email Helen at [email protected], or phone 07469 660873