Christine Sherburne, 65, is making a difference to people experiencing loneliness and isolation in Salford by providing a new, vital green space for people to meet and connect.
After attending the Eden Project’s Community Camp, Christine organised a socially distanced VE Day street party to connect people living on her street during the pandemic.
Keen to add some greenery to the local area, the retired secondary school teacher went on to rejuvenate the alleyway behind her street to ensure children had a safe place to socialise and play while being unable to venture further afield during lockdown.
Christine cleared and tidied the disused space, adding refurbished benches and a donated Wendy house and planting flowers and vegetables in recycled plant pots. With the project gaining momentum, other neighbours joined forces to support the initiative, providing funds to Christine to maintain the space, donating more plants, and enjoying barbecues and outdoor gatherings together.
Now people in her community can enjoy time together, after Christine says she was ‘galvanised into action’ to reduce the loneliness and social isolation crisis in her area at an inspirational Eden Project Community Camp.
Research undertaken by Eden Project Communities this year revealed that more than one in ten (11.2%) of the British population often or always feels lonely. Yet people also wanted to be more involved where they live during the pandemic, finding that nearly half of people (45%) want to do more for their local community than they currently do.
Christine, who attended Community Camp at the Eden Project in September 2019, said: “Going to camp gave me so much confidence. I had just retired and had more time on my hands and I realised how quickly people can become isolated.
“Then the pandemic happened and it really highlighted the need for us to be connected at a local level. Some people had lived here 30 years and hadn’t ever spoken to each other.
“Now we talk all the time, people help each other and all the children play together. We’re a rock solid community.”
As well as creating a recreational area, the project has had noticeable educational and environmental benefits, with children helping out with sowing and planting, learning more about where their food comes from, and holding vegetable sales with the produce they’ve grown.
Christine is now calling on other people to follow in her footsteps and see what they could achieve by attending a virtual version of the community camp designed to support anyone who wants to do positive things where they live.
Christine said: “Of all the things I’ve done, I’m really proud of this. My drive was to bring people together and now I feel like I have a family here.
“It might not sound like a big deal but it’s amazing what positivity can do – I have children running up to me now asking whether they can pick our vegetables or help me to sow new seeds.”
Community Camp takes place on 1-2 October and is open to anyone starting out in their community journey. Complete with interactive sessions, practical activities, networking opportunities and inspiring speakers, the free two-day online learning experience aims to provide a valuable foundation for people looking to explore their potential to make a positive difference where they live.
Started in 2009, it’s an idea from the Eden Project that each year brings 6 million people together, made possible by The National Lottery and supported by Iceland and The Food Warehouse.
Tracey Robbins, Head of Eden Project Communities UK Delivery, said: “Christine is just one of the 1600 community-minded people who have been inspired to start more than 1000 initiatives at our camps over the years.
“She’s testament to the idea that anyone can support their community to thrive just by taking that all-important first step of exploring their ideas.”
Attendees will have the chance to delve deeper into topics such as confidence building, recognising and growing skillsets, connecting with local networks and identifying resources, as well as meeting and sharing ideas with like-minded people, with whom they have the potential to form a lasting peer network.
Tracey continued: “For many of us around the country, the pandemic resulted in more time spent with our neighbours and local communities than ever before, but we also found ourselves lonelier and more isolated.
“That’s why we’re keen to welcome to camp people who want to begin to grow the connections they’ve made, whether that’s meant hosting online coffee mornings during the pandemic, setting up a neighbourhood contact group, or even taking part in your first Big Lunch.”
To get involved or sign up for the Community Camp, visit the Eden Projects Community page.