I was in Sweden last week catching up with old friends and enjoying some hot weather out on the water. During our talks we discussed a volunteering concept that I believe is lacking in the UK, that of ‘community service’.
Of course community service means something else entirely in the UK! But here in Sweden, some streets have a program for householders to work together to keep everything neat and tidy. Maybe only once a month but with everyone joining in, lots gets done.
I came across a similar scheme in Rwanda, who had implemented a national program which made it compulsory for everyone to help out on community initiatives one Sunday morning a month. People trying to avoid it were ‘detained’ in their cars at the roadside until the volunteering session was over! Rumor has it that even the prime minsiter and his colleagues participate…….
I wonder if we are too isolated for this kind of scheme to work in the UK? I know, it’s a strange idea that as ‘connected’ and ‘aware’ as we are supposedly are, how can we be isolated? Well, I think that people are less aware of what, or even who their neighbours are and therefore there is less of a ‘common good’ feeling amongst many today. It’s difficult to care about your neighbour is you rarely see him or know his name.
I also wonder if a volunteering program for residents of a street would help create the bonhomie that I miss from being a kid, playing in the street. Or maybe I just live in the wrong area!
Then again, as usual, this kind if scheme would probably not be of interest to the very people who would possibly stand to gain the most from it and that is the shame of this modern age.