23 August 2016

Many potential campers are unsure if they’re the right fit for an Community Camp, so we’ve interviewed former participant Kathryn to tell us a bit about her experience (we think she must have really liked it ‘cause she now works with us).

A woman sat smiling on a bench.

What first interested you about the Community Camps?

I had an idea about setting up a befriending scheme for people experiencing anxiety or people who felt fear was holding them back from doing what they wanted to/be the person they wanted to be, but I didn’t know where to start.

I had spent a decade volunteering, working in management, and running local community baking groups but setting up something like a social enterprise felt incredibly daunting. But my passion saw me determined to make it happen. I didn’t really know anyone in my friendship and colleague circles that volunteered. This meant I found it hard knowing where to start, who to speak to etc. The project I set up was called Feardom Fighters and so what spurred me all the way was thinking ‘I can’t be an ambassador for this cause if I can’t face my own fears of stepping into the unknown and reaching out to strangers for help or guidance’.

I had begun to reach out to community groups online with success but all formal support/funding schemes seemed to be for more mature community projects e.g. School for Social Entrepreneurs. When I read about Eden Project Communities I thought ‘that’s me, that’s me! I have an idea I want to turn into action but I don’t know where to start and am looking for ideas and inspiration from others who have been there, done that’.

What were your initial thoughts when you saw the camp being advertised?

I remember seeing it advertised on a tweet. I can’t remember exactly what it said but I remember thinking ‘Finally something I can apply for’. From the promotions I read, it sounded like Eden Project Communities was willing to invest in the person and their ideas. Also, the focus seemed to be on networking and meeting others which I find is the best way for me to learn.

What made you want to apply?

The opportunity to get ideas and inspiration from like-minded people. I wasn’t getting that from my existing networks.

How did you know that the Camp was for people like you?

It was the bit about ‘you can sign up even if it is just an idea’ and that this community camp was an opportunity to start turning it into reality.

Did you have any reservations in applying?

As this was my first step in getting the ball rolling, I guess I wondered whether I was what they were looking for. I hadn’t set up anything at that point.

What would you tell others who are on the fence about applying?

Often people who give a lot to others don’t realise how amazing they (and their ideas) are. Or their full-time jobs hold them back from putting ideas into practice. For those who have ideas, they may feel they have to show proof as that’s what lots of other funding applications ask for. Funding applications always ask, ‘Where is the evidence of the need for your idea?’ Or their experience might be ‘I have an idea but no one really ever takes notice, or red tape gets in the way’. At the Camp I attended we realised that whilst we all had different life experiences and ideas, there commonality in :

  • Our willingness to share
  • To not always ask for permission. We are not scared to experiment and fail as long as we learn from it and share our learning with others
  • Making the most of the resources we have available to us
  • Leading the way in bringing communities out of their houses to come together and promote integration and inclusivity

What was your experience of the Camp?

I really felt for the first time in my life (I was 29 at the time) that I was surrounded by people who shared that ‘fire in your belly’ feeling when you are passionate about something that you want to do to improve the lives of others. It was a hive of positivity, of people who were willing to be open and share knowledge with complete strangers just because they wanted to help!

I signed up for the ‘Share your story’ session. This was the most transformational bit for me. I hadn’t really shared my idea before then – only one person knew. I knew my family and friends would listen, but not having done something like this themselves, they couldn’t give practical advice. The reaction to my idea was amazing and after I told my story I had so many people (there were 90 on my Camp) approach me, signposting me to initiatives or offering their support. It was at the Community Camp that a mind shift happened for me and I realised ‘I don’t have to have to have the solutions’. Gather people who care about what you are doing and take it from there. And so my idea for the Feardom Festival was born, which would not have happened if I had not been on the Camp.

It also taught me that it’s ok to ask for help if you can explain why it matters and how people can get involved. After the Camp, a number of people got in touch and used their design skills to design posters, collaborated to create a photography exhibition, and highlighted my work on their websites. I will be forever grateful for their support. On a personal level, knowing that there were a growing number of people who believed in what I was doing gave me the confidence to ‘think big’. I approached and secured venues, speakers (at home and abroad who had inspirational stories to share), and materials all for free, whilst doing my full-time job. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without knowing I had such a positive ‘force’ behind me that I could turn to if I needed to.

Contact one of our team to find out about the next Community Camp in February 2017.

I was surrounded by people who shared that ‘fire in your belly’ feeling when you are passionate about something that you want to do to improve the lives of others. It was a hive of positivity, of people who were willing to be open and share knowledge with complete strangers just because they wanted to help!