Explaining the inexplicable
When I first connected the idea of Timebanking and St John Ambulance in my head, it was like a lightening strike and I have to admit, I do assume that everyone will experience it like I did. But no. So it took me quite a while to realise that even after I thought I had explained things in perfect detail, the ins and outs were not completely obvious, and to be fair, I have been consumed with this for nearly two years!
So to fill in a bit more detail, here is how I see it actually running from here…
The implementation process for this project is a long-term strategy. It would start in the places where Timebanks already exist as the plan is to link St John with local Timebanks, not to start or operate any Timebanks ourselves.
Timebanking is new in New Zealand, most people that I speak to about it have never heard of it. Our Timebanks are in varying states of development, and it is currently very difficult to get funding for Timebank co-ordinators. Although many Timebanks manage to run on nothing, like everything else they need resources, and full-time co-ordinators get a Timebank up and running quicker and more effectively than without. So while we do have about 30 Timebanks in varying stages of operation across the two islands, relationships between them and their local St John Area Committees will take time and energy to initiate and build.
I see this happening with personal presentations to the Area Committees, volunteers and paid staff in each locality where a Timebank is already operating. Discussions and explanations about the ways in which Timebanking can advance the goals of the St John strategic vision, give service back to volunteers and even reduce our workload will help our people decide if they want to become a Timebank member.
In Lyttelton, the relationship with St John and the Timebank has begun, but this first one, and all the rest will need to be looked after in order to grow. Volunteers will need to hear about and understand how it can work not just for them and their families, but for the community and their patients as well. As stories emerge about things that have happened through Timebanking, they need to be shared, so that others get the hang of the possibilities. And where frustrations arise they will need to be addressed, reflected upon, solutions found and actioned.
The Timebanks in Dunedin, Wanaka, Queenstown, Gore, Christchurch and Nelson will already provide plenty to do in building and nurturing those relationships, but with St John Ambulance acting as a champion for the philosophy of Timebanking, momentum will gather and funding will be more forthcoming for Timebanks in a virtuous cycle as they proliferate.
And then the real magic happens. When Timebanking becomes a household name partnerships between St John, GPs, and Timebanks will foster the community support needed for people living with chronic illness; our old folk living independently in their homes; or those recovering from illness or injury.
The goal of this project is to make a serious difference to the ambulance workload in places like Auckland and to address the crisis facing the health system by providing solutions at ‘the top of the cliff’. Timebanking gives us unlimited opportunities to do that, and a brilliant example is in Lower Hutt, where the local Timebank decided to provide five home-cooked meals a week to the very young women and their children at a school for teenage mums. The availability of healthy food in early development has lifetime effects, so you can imagine that this one beautiful project is having long-lasting benefits for them and cost-benefits for our health system.
And this is just the start. Health is only one area where Timebanking can be a worthwhile tool – education, youth justice, housing, emergency planning and management are the areas in which Timebanking has a proven record…but the full list is as long as your imagination.
Timebanking is a tool that knits communities together, and tighter communities have less crime, better health and more fun than fractured ones.