Community missions give a helping hand to everyone in Sheffield
It’s Monday, it’s 6.45pm. and it’s time for 30 or more altruistic Sheffielders to run to your garden, park, street or community building and do pretty much whatever you want them to do to sort it out for you.
“When I first started three years ago we’d struggle to get enough people to come out on a day like today,” said Sarah King, sheltering from the rain in the Botanical Gardens. “But now, on a Monday, so many people turn up we sometimes struggle to have enough work for everyone to do.”
The GoodGym charity has been running to help charities and community groups in Sheffield for three years, and last weekend members were involved in seven different voluntary ‘community missions’, ranging from marshalling the Trust 10 run at Longshaw to litter picking at Meersbrook and Manor Fields and even joining the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch to collect ornithological data at the Botanical Gardens.
“It’s a sociable thing and doing things for areas you enjoy is a great philanthropic way to do something for yourself, and supporting others at the same time. And we can all see there’s lots to be done,” said Dana Abdulkarim.
Last Sunday, Sheffield GoodGym member Tom Harman led the Botanical birdwatch, aiming to contribute to the vast national database of the RSPB charity covering the UK’s garden birdlife.
The Big Garden Birdwatch collates the numbers of birds of different species spotted by ‘citizen scientists’ in their local parks and gardens over a single February weekend.
Around half a million people usually take part in a survey that’s been taking place for the last forty years.
Tom is a National Trust ranger in the Peak District when he’s not volunteering for GoodGym, and says the survey illustrates the changes in bird populations over recent decades, which he says are the results of changes to the international climate, to habitats here and abroad and to the rise of high intensity farming.
“Examples of changes are that migratory birds are arriving back in the UK on average two weeks earlier, and that many farmland species are losing land.
“Overall, 14 per cent of the animal, bird, plant and insect species in the UK are now in danger of extinction here.”
Public awareness exercises like the birdwatch are thus very important, he said.
“Without public support, we’ll struggle to make the changes needed to protect these species.”
He gave planting thousands of trees across the Peak District as an example.
He said: “There are lots of tree planting events going on, and that’s one way people can support the creation of new native broad leaf woodland by people like the Eastern Moors Partnership, the National Trust, Sheffield Council and Sheffield Wildlife Trust.”
Ten GoodGym members also helped the city council plant a new hawthorn hedge at Manor Fields last weekend, which will help reduce flooding as well as provide food and shelter for birds
There are now over 400 members of GoodGym in Sheffield, said Tom, from students to retired people.
“Many students really do have an altruistic outlook about where they live,” said Daiana Allen.
“They want to get involved and help take care of their environment.”
“This is only my first month, and after doing my first litter pick I was surprised how much I enjoyed it,” said Harrison Rhodes.
“When I went along the same path the next day, you could see the effects of what you’d done, which felt really good.”
“And it’s good to go to so many different areas of the city,” said Annie Mays.
“People come out and support us and say thank you when they see what we’re doing, and it makes you feel good inside, that you’re achieving something for the community.”
Any charity, community organisation, school, or social enterprise that operates on not for profit principles can apply for help, and often a member can come out first to talk through possible options for gardening, tidying, painting, or heavy lifting.
“Before I started, I used to walk down the street seeing litter or something and say ‘Oh, someone should do something about that’ said Sarah King. “But then I realised, actually I was someone.”
Please visit www.goodgym.org/areas/sheffield/request-a-task site for more information.