A few weeks ago, driving home from our Latin Etc group, Fran said “We have a little school in a way now, don’t we?” And we do, in a way. It isn’t a school, because we specifically avoid the conditions that would make it so, but for a 12 year old who has only ever spent a few weeks in a real school, coming home from one or two days a week with her brain filled with information from adults who are not her parents, her bag stuffed with books and ideas and things to work on, it must feel like school. Just a rather excellent one, one not unlike the junior PNEU school I attended.
We’re living a great life; in our immediate area we have 6 women prepared to share skills and homes to provide 17 children with exciting opportunities and knowledge. We are a vastly differing bunch of women too; highly educated medical ones, ex-teachers, musicians, ones who have taught in nurseries, artists, people with their heads stuffed full of plays and poems and historical nonsense. We’ve got ones who provide the dinners, people who are happy to turn up with a box full of art materials, ones who can lead 6 and 7 year olds safely through experiments that they’d be lucky to otherwise see before A Level chemistry. There are people to time keep and people with a nose for spotting a great day out. All between just the 6 of us. Those 6 come with houses filled with craft stuff, cars that can fit an extra child in, musical instruments that arrive in a box to share or swap between children of the right size. We’ve got houses filled with books and games to lend and to borrow and husbands with skills of their own that can be hauled in. 6 people who are happy to bail out a person falling apart for the sake of not just friendship but also keeping those children in the loop that works better when they are all there.
It’s friendship and it is organisation but it is also a true co-operative, in all the best senses of the word. We share time and abilities and resources and effort and work hard at adapting around the issues that develop as we develop and grow. Something built up for a greater good and to benefit everyone – and with what is for me (as a business person) the real thrill of it being for no financial profit at all. It is something humans have been doing for thousands of years, an innate instinct to share and help that deserves support, rather than crushing with restrictive legislation. For the most part, history will tell you that humans want to work together and build something greater than the sum of its parts.
You may have seen the television adverts that have launched this week from The Co-operative. Their Join the revolution campaign features the Rochdale Pioneers, who established the first successful co-operative in 1844, started a revolution which is still going strong. The Co-operative Group with its six million members and 5,000 outlets across its family of businesses including food, financial services, travel, pharmacy and funeral planning. We had reason to be grateful to The Co-Operative Group last year; although in the UK the funeral of a child must be done for free as it is considered unethical to make money from a grieving parent, the Co-op provided the service beautifully. We were glad, later in the year when one of their stores opened near us and have made an effort to support it as a measure of our thanks. It fits with our ethics and our desire to shop locally and support local jobs and business.
As well featuring The Co-operative’s ethical credentials, it also explores some of the thousands of other co-operators who share the same heritage. The list of these is inspiring indeed, my personal favourite being The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy which is the UK’s only co-operatively-run film academy. It gives 14-25 year olds from all backgrounds the opportunity to gain skills, confidence and hands-on experience at Summer Camps where they work with industry professionals on feature-length films. It also provides a variety of year-round educational opportunities.
Another one which inspired me was the Machynlleth Toy Library, which came under threat of closure when its existing funding was cancelled. The library is a well-loved part of the local community, and Mieke and the Play Montgomeryshire team were determined to save it. The group approached The Co-operative and secured a donation of £2,000 from our Community Fund. As a result, they are now confident that the library will continue to serve local children.
Get involved with The Co-Operative and start changing your life and your area, with the backing of an ethical company that truly wants to help.