As this chapter of working in Thames View and Barking Riverside closes and another begins I’ve been reflecting on our pilot, Wellbeing Navigators. The standout thing for me has been the relationships formed between all our participants and clients. There are so many different activities, groups and projects going on around here that once you open your eyes to them you start to see a different landscape: a network of residents striving to make their neighbourhood more connected, fun and greener. I have seen former wellbeing navigator volunteers and clients go on to work on the Henry programme, start cooking classes at the Participatory City Warehouse or leading campaigns to open up our local nature reserve. One thing leads to another as they say.
During our pilot we have helped people retrain – learning skills in motivational interviewing, mental health awareness and social prescribing and to seek new opportunities for employment – coming out of the pandemic. It’s been heartening to have applicants call me to say that having been helped out of rough patches themselves they just want to give something back to their community having been locked away for 18 months of lockdown. This eagerness has allowed us to reconnect many isolated residents back with their community, get active and feeling healthier again. Just a few warm conversations can ignite a life changing transformation. One resident we were chatting to was unaware that our Barking Food Forest was literally on his doorstep, now he’s helping to run it!
Over the course of walking groups, workshops, community events and 1-2-1s I have seen neighbours who have never met before, meet for the first time and form strong bonds of solidarity as they discuss the common challenges of bills, health, homes and overcoming loneliness in a busy city. It’s quite surprising sometimes how easily friendships can form. Despite the fact many of us spend most of our time looking at screens surrounded by four walls, once we are out and about talking to people we really are all the same: looking for a sense of connection and belonging within our community.
Wellbeing Navigator Volunteer Coordinator