I (Glynis Currie) have had the privilege of working for Framework for 20 years in various different roles. This work has brought me into contact with many unsung heroes; ordinary people who do extraordinary things to bring about positive change for their families and their community. In Framework we have been able to share in that journey with the volunteers and staff of community sector organisations who every day face the challenges and complexities of supporting their communities despite ongoing threats to funding and ever increasing challenges in accountability and change management requirements.
Is the community sector perfect ? No! Does it get things wrong? Of course it does, but what it has is passion and a determination to try and make a difference. Having watched volunteers in particularly struggle through all that is required of them and yet still turn up at the next meeting to hold the fort is absolutely inspiring and something that does not happen everywhere. Ireland should be singing from the rooftops with regard to the contribution of local people make to social change and building community spirit.
In the ten years prior to working with Framework I was also involved in both a voluntary and paid capacity in various developments, campaigns and local community work. Ever since I remember I always had a great draw and passion for working with people towards a common goal that brings about positive change or makes something better. Whilst I never really had a particular faith I believed that we did not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine and to create a better future and this power has been demonstrated to me time after time.
However, I had often wondered where my own interest in social change and community work came from ? There was never any history of it in my immediate family who all still struggle to grasp what I actually do. It was only in more recent years that I developed some understanding of what I think motivated me. For anyone else to understand it I would need to take you back to my roots.
I was born in Scotland in 1954 and for the first 6 – 7 years of my life I lived in a small mining town midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The town was blackened by the coal dust and soot, and we were surrounded by what you could only describe as large red flat top hills (much like Ayers Rock) which we called the Bings. These were the shingle waste products of the mines and were subsequently used for building motorways. In that part of the country people talked fast and worked very hard like they expected nothing else in life (Christmas day was not even a holiday back then). Where I lived was a place where you knew you were loved by the slagging you got, the door was always open and people had an opinion on everything. My grandmother on my father’s side was always an inspiration and took a great interest in her community, known by everyone and to be crossed at your peril !!! She and her sister had to be banned from the village sports days in their 60’s to give the younger women a chance. I remember many a conversation on visits back that revolved around either sports, religion or the evils of the Tory Government.
I often thought I might have inherited something from her, however on the death of my last aunty about 10 years ago I was at the funeral and met an older distant cousin who had known my grandmothers and also one of my great grandmothers. We talked for a while and she asked me what I did in Ireland. After making a great effort to try and explain it she eventually said that she had something to tell me. You should know that you are very like your “Wee Granny”. She was your grandfathers mother and was very involved in her local community, she was the wise woman the people went to in times of trouble, she tackled men who were involved in domestic violence and was on more committees than could be counted to work on behalf of the mining community.
This was the first time I had ever heard a story about her and I cannot pretend to have her wisdom or courage but I love to think that I have some of her passion and belief in people’s ability to make change happen. I have one memory of meeting her, by then a very elderly woman, and my grandfather had brought me for a visit. She sat me at the table and gave me a Scot’s Pie with brown sauce (sausage meat to those not from Scotland) and patted my head and touched my cheek.
I now get enormous pleasure out of thinking that with that pat in the head my Wee Granny passed on a gift to me and that everything I have gotten involved in has been because I have been carrying my “Wee Granny” with me.
Coming to live in Ireland then has always felt for me that I was in some way coming home because of the way people have a strong sense of identity and community. It brought me in touch with the power we have to change things. The volunteers that we in Framework have worked in partnership down through the years I believe, should be acknowledged as heroes, every one of them and thanked for their tenacity, creativity and courage. However, I suspect like my Wee Granny, their efforts and contribution will go largely un recognised, but that will not prevent future generations from benefiting from their contribution, and hopefully some of the magic and power to imagine a better way will be passed on.
Where does your activism come from?