Out of school for 30 years, but I'm still learning every day

The Budleigh Salterton Community Hospital Health and Wellbeing Hub

The Budleigh Salterton Community Hospital Health and Wellbeing Hub - Credit: Archant

Budleigh Health and Wellbeing Hub manager Marc Jobson writes in this week's community education column for the Journal

Marc Jobson

Marc Jobson - Credit: Archant

It is said that we go to school to learn. Yet we only spend a fifth of our life in school. I haven’t been to school for 30 years yet I am still learning. That wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happens that way.

The Hub at Budleigh exists to attract and provide for people with a range of needs, doing many things for many different people. But none of them have actually realised that it also has the potential to educate them.

The Hub is a mixture of services which adapt and flex to support the wellbeing and happiness of our communities, individually and collectively, in Exmouth, Woodbury and Budleigh.

In normal times we provide many different activities, classes and services. These range from; seated exercise for older people; low impact exercise for the more mobile older person; a gym; child nursery, a café, holistic therapy, volunteering opportunities, support groups and NHS services such as counselling, physio, audiology, podiatry, out patients and GP appointments.

As people attend these individual ‘activities’ they are unwittingly educating themselves, gaining an insight in to the lives of other service users. As an example, service users know that they are learning how to play table tennis in one of our activities, but I suspect they never realised they were also learning about other cultures, social-economic groups, and our developing life skills.

The turn up and play table tennis! But this group are a diverse bunch, a complex cross-section of local people.

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They include the retired, wealthy retired, NEETS (not in education, employment or training), single, married, isolated, and often lonely people. Where else would you get a wealthy retired person talking to an unemployed teenager?

Both parties have the potential to learn about each other’s position in society, and the troubles they face. Troubles that one reason or another have brought them to the Hub. Having a good income doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely. Being unemployed doesn’t mean you are depressed.

They normally wouldn’t even make eye contact in the street. Living in the same neighbourhood is not necessarily equate with being in a community, experiencing social bonds and shared values.

After seated exercise the best bit is the tea and biscuits afterwards. All participants are encouraged to chat and get to know one another. I’m especially thinking of the young lady with mobility issues who joined the class and who learnt that older people are ‘normal’ people, and have the same wicked sense of humour as her.

The café trains adults with learning disabilities in food preparation and hygiene, so they can go onto employment. They are our ‘front of house’ at the Hub. I have seen that initially some people are taken aback by their presence in the café.

They were unsure how to react and speak to them (as if they are from a different planet). I have also seen that over following visits how visitors have chosen (learnt?) to interact with the café staff. Both parties grow in confidence.

The conversations become routine. The customer has been educated. Their unconscious or maybe even conscious bias, their values, got in the way of this new reality, and a jolly good conversation.

The Hub allows people of all backgrounds to mingle, chat and learn from one another. These small snippets of ‘education’ allow us to grow and develop as humans, potentially to become more

empathetic people and perhaps play a bigger part in their developing community. People of a diverse kind, with a wide range of needs come to the Hub to access services to meet their needs, but also engage, making the personal and collective outcomes greater than just the sum of the particular parts.

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