Farewell but not goodbye

Helen Bigham is leaving The Mill after two years of working with volunteers at the Walthamstow community centre

The Mill volunteers

The Mill volunteers Mumtaz, Sue and Kamilia (credit Penny Dampier)

When the music changes so does the dance – an African proverb that strongly resonates with me. This year will be a new beginning for me as my two-year funded post at The Mill has drawn to a close. I feel sadness, but remind myself that change affects and impacts all of us at some point and time in our lives. If we don’t experience different things we can become stagnant.

Working here has never been boring and time has flown past. I’ve learnt practical things, ranging from how to use the website to creating colourful pom-poms. I’ve witnessed everyday acts of kindness and the profound impact these can have on the lives of so many members of the community.

And I’ve gained valuable insights from the many wonderful volunteers I’ve worked alongside. Norman suggests to live your life to the fullest without hurting too many people on the way; Isabel advocates to “be kind, smile a lot and love my fellow humans” and also the importance of recycling and what can and cannot go in the green bin; Hannah advises “try and do something out of your comfort zone as often as you can”; Liam urges that “you need not be afraid, instead learn from your mistakes and get out there and do it!”.

Janet has shown me the importance of overcoming shyness: “I wouldn’t say boo to a goose! But in the last few years I’ve come out of my shell, I’ve gained more confidence… with everyone here being so friendly I feel like I’m with family. So my rule of life would be to never let fear get in the way.”

Sue recommends to live by the maxim “do unto others as you would be done by”; Kamilia says “the best feeling is when your own happiness makes somebody else happy”; and Nat remarks that he’s “a suck it and see person – here I get the chance to give my ideas a go”.

But Mumtaz sums up my time best: “The Mill really gives me a lot back. I take more out of here than I give. I was born in India and our culture is very spiritual I really feel 99.5% of human beings are good – only a small minority spoil it.

“People are born to be really kind with each other and help each other. I just like the company of other people and The Mill provides this.”