On the news recently, there was yet another report outlining the pressures on standards of living being experienced by families in work, as average earnings trail behind inflation. The pressures on those living on benefits, and the indignities and frustrations they face, are also well documented. Over the past ten weeks, a group of ordinary folk in Ruchazie (North-East Glasgow) have come together to share their own experiences of living with poverty, and to identify some actions they may wish to take together, to tackle the issue in their community.
The meeting takes place over a simple lunch. Folk are getting to know one another better, and folk who have never attended a meeting are learning to chair discussions, keep a minute, and agree on actions. The Group has named itself Ruchazie Poverty Action Group.
A group of ordinary folk … have come together to share their own experiences of living with poverty, and to identify some actions they may wish to take together. Muriel Pearson, Go For It Committee
They’ve already visited some community gardens, a community hub in Easterhouse, and have plans to visit community shops or food co-operatives. Little by little they are researching, exploring, asking questions, and finding community partners interested in supporting their ideas. They are coming to meetings with news of programmes watched or articles researched on-line, and conversations roam wide and free. Already, folk have gained in confidence and say they feel less hopeless; although local and international news is a real challenge to hope. But they are moving towards their first actions.
Only two of the new activists (as they wish to be known) have been involved in campaigning action before. One is a member of the local Housing Association Committee, and one was part of a group of women who campaigned and raised funds for a children’s play area.
But the folk in Ruchazie Poverty Action Group are still the ones who can bring about real change in their community, supported by the gentle facilitation of members of the Transformation Team, part of Faith in Community Scotland.
What’s faith got to do with it? None of these folk belong in a formal sense to the local Church of Scotland congregation. The local Roman Catholic parish has just been united with its neighbouring parish, across the motorway in Cranhill. Folk are grieving as the St Philip’s church building is demolished. However there’s a sense of belonging, and awareness and gratitude for the support the Church of Scotland gives the community, and the role of the faith community in that. And there may well be a Grant application to Go For It somewhere along the way.
Over soup and sandwich this is a growing fellowship, and there’s a heart to do good in the neighbourhood. One woman put the Group’s aims this way: “We want a community that is happier, healthier and has a bit more money in our pockets”. We can all say ‘Amen’ to that!
Rev Muriel Pearson is a co-opted Committee member of the Church of Scotland’s Go For It Fund.