Donald Inch examines how a rural community came together after the closure of a local school
Crossroads Community Hub started when the rural community lost its last remaining facility/school, which was used by the community for social activities. Local farmers/families were unsuccessful in saving the school but came together to secure another community facility and identified a need for a multi-purpose facility which served the needs of the rural villages across East Ayrshire.
East Ayrshire rates among the highest in Scotland for multiple deprivations; with far too many people living with poor physical/mental health, low educational achievement, unemployment and reliance on benefits. Many are ill-equipped to face life’s challenges and remain embedded in a life of drug/alcohol misuse, criminal activity, isolation and poverty, and without any scope to escape the cycle of poverty via support available in urban areas. Apathy is prevalent and pride has been lost along with the closure of rural businesses/industries.
Fewer life skills are handed down between generations, rendering far too many young people in poverty without the skills/capacity to change their life’s path.
During the past year we have developed initiatives which enable people to grow together, cook together and eat together
The model we use has evolved naturally and uses traditional values/approaches which pulled a community together and cared for its most vulnerable.
Our Edible Beds initiative has linked schools, nursery’s, community groups, sheltered housing, community hospitals, charities and HMP Kilmarnock, creating a network of raised bed partners which share resources, manpower and produce, ensuring that the most needy in their communities have access to fresh nutritional vegetables and fruit. Harvest times are a celebration for volunteers and beneficiaries who attend simple cooking/tasting demos on site. Each site offers opportunities to volunteer, develop skills, reconnect with the environment, make friends and enjoy improved physical/mental health
Our Darvel base hosts all community/outreach initiatives, with food and well-being being central to all activities.
With a lack of skills being handed down in families we are now seeing a third generation who can’t cook or even understand where their food comes from, however, do recognise that change is needed.
Our classes include:
- Cooking from the garden
- Zero waste
- Cooking on a budget
- Getting the most from food parcels
- Kids cooking classes
- Inter-generational cooking classes
Our services/initiatives reflect the diversity of the entire community. Genuine community engagement and good old-fashioned listening to people has driven us to host/facilitate a range of social, supportive and practical activities, including: peer support groups (physical/mental), visiting services , free lunch club, gaming nights, youth activities, mums and bubs, arts and crafts, Fair Share (to name a few).
Initiatives function on a “donations welcome-where-you-can basis”
During the past year we have witnessed a growth in resilience and capacity throughout the community. Children and adults are starting to eat and live healthier, respecting and enjoying their environment. Strangers are becoming friends, with many benefiting from worthwhile volunteering opportunities, giving back, and completing the circle of help
A new facility is currently being built on the old school site, providing us with a greater opportunity to enhance and extend our community/outreach initiatives.
Donald Inch is public affairs manager at Scottish Land and Estates