Connect and join the Whitby compassionate community

There’s no shortage of problems affecting people. Some are specific to individuals, including ourselves, but others relate to people worldwide we don’t know who are impacted by famines, floods and conflicts.
Our personal reactions to these range from sympathy to empathy if we have experienced the kind of situation ourselves and possibly reaching compassion, which means doings something about it.  Compassion is the level that costs in some way – investment of time, perhaps money and certainly emotion.
The Covid-19 pandemic spotlighted compassion. Volunteers helped to manage the flows at vaccination centres and delivered essentials to the housebound in lockdown. It was large scale action, public and visible, whereas most compassionate responses happen privately between friends and family. However, very importantly, many happen with complete strangers when paths just cross.
Compassion begins by realisation of a need. Perhaps by being told or by noticing how someone appears to be. The way a person responds to a casual “how are you?” may give the clue and the setting might be a queue, a bench, a food bank or anywhere.
Having friends will increase the likelihood of receiving help, but for those who are isolated help will be less certain. The odds in favour of help will be increased if there are people at large who are alert to signs of someone lacking support, falling through the net.
Having people at large is the purpose of the Whitby Compassion Project.  They will be “Community Connectors” providing intentional compassion when circumstances arise. They will be volunteers going about their ordinary daily life until they bump into someone needing and wanting help with an issue. A Community Connector simply gives them time to talk.
The project will develop volunteers to be ‘signposts’ in chance encounters pointing towards sources of help. Signposts are not destinations. The AA advert “but I know a man who can” is apt. Community Connectors will not ‘tinker under the bonnet’ themselves but will point to those better placed to identify solutions.
The grassroots approach has worked well in Frome, Somerset under the visionary leadership of a GP. She foresaw the need for, and benefit from, floating volunteers who could give time as needed to help those whose needs were not medical but more likely related to isolation.
The Frome project also pioneered the role of Health Connectors that have now become the primary care link workers today. Link workers signpost patients to activities and services that might benefit them.
Local examples of these targeted services with experienced advisors are Whitby DAG and MIND. Others such as the Men’s Sheds, Revival North Yorkshire and Whitby Beach Sweep offer
activity-centred support.
There are numerous other groups, sometimes not well known, playing their part for people feeling on the outside or downside of life. There are no one size fits all solutions to needs.
How will Connectors be prepared for their important role? They will have an introduction to the role and then draw on their own first-hand experience, on what they learn over time and by accessing a Whitby Handy Directory online. This is a map-based tool using information collected about Whitby activities and services.
A feature is that the service/activity entries can be tagged with keywords also used to describe an individual person’s need. These can be used in conjunction to generate some preliminary matches.

How might you help Whitby Compassion Project?
1.  Tell us of activities/services in Whitby district that might welcome people one by one to their activity. Just the barest details will do.
2. Become a local Handy Directory Champion tracking local activities that start, change or finish.
3. Consider becoming a Community Connector. Introductory sessions will begin in early 2023.
4. Consider helping to arrange some regular “pop up” Talking Cafés using commercial or community cafes; places to meet, chat and where anyone wanting assistance can come.

Please contact Clare Churley or Graham Storer initially through