Rebuilding our Communities an hour at a time…with Timebanking
“Time is free. But it’s priceless. You can’t own it. But you can use it. You can’t keep it. But you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” (Harvey McKay)
Timebanking is a concept first introduced to the UK in the 1980s and is now being established right here in West Cork. The principle is simple – you give an hour of your time to someone who needs help, and in return you receive a “time credit” which you can then exchange for something you need. Credits can be saved up, donated to others who are unable to earn credits or stored in the “community treasure chest” for others to use. For example, you might offer an hour of your time to walk someone’s dog, or help someone with their shopping. In return, you receive a time credit which you might use to get some help with decorating. Or you might bank your time credit and save up enough to take a trip to the cinema.
West Cork now has its own Timebank – called hOUR Timebank. It is a registered charity, has the support of West Cork Development Partnership, and is run by a dedicated team of experts in the field of timebanking. Fergal Conlon, Social Inclusion Manager at West Cork Development Partnership says, “we are delighted to support hOUR Timebank. We are confident it works and will add to and support the vibrant and energetic voluntary and community sector in West Cork. We are fortunate to benefit from a tradition and culture of Meitheal, civic engagement and active participation in our communities. The West Cork Timebank project will enhance and further expand this tradition, bringing new communications and social media to maximise the value of volunteerism. We wish the project every success and look forward to working alongside the project leaders.”
Success in the UK – The story of Dennis
Timebanking is the ultimate in “give and take” and enjoys strong government support in the UK with organisations such as the NHS and Job Centres recognizing its benefits. Sarah Bird, CEO of Timebanking UK says that “when people support one another in this way, natural, mutual, practical and social support networks are created, thereby automatically reducing isolation, and improving the health and well-being of the local community.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0Flh6cuuWs) She quotes the case of Dennis, a man in his sixties who was referred to her timebanking centre as he was struggling with alcohol and constantly found himself in trouble with the police. He started to gain credits through helping out in the centre, mowing lawns, and painting and decorating. He built up credits which he exchanged for haircuts, football tickets and, ultimately, lessons from a retired schoolteacher who taught him to read and write. His quality of life improved immensely, he made new friends and most importantly, he stopped getting in to trouble with the police.
But timebanking is not just for people like Dennis – it is for everyone. Everyone has something to offer, and everyone can benefit from offering their help. Timebanking connects isolated people in the community, builds relationships and fosters social inclusion. This exchange of skills and favours, which is naturally found within families, unites and strengthens the whole community. At a time when government services are stretched to their limits, Timebanking can really help to reach out to the wider community and get everyone working together to fill the gaps left by crippling cuts.
Do you have an hour to give?
The success of timebanking is dependent on its members, as more members means a wider range of services that are available through the scheme. Membership is open to everyone – to individuals, groups, businesses, schools and voluntary organisations. The whole community in fact. And that’s the whole point – people helping people, giving their time and getting something in return. It’s a win win for everyone. For more information about Timebanking in West Cork, visit www.west-cork.ie or visit the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/hOURtimebank/