As a brand new addition to the Manchester Cares team and the wider Cares Family, I wanted to tell you a bit about me and why I am passionate about my new role coordinating the wonderful Love Your Neighbour programme alongside my team mate Vicky.
In the past few years, I’ve taught English to college students in Neiva, Colombia (while perfecting my Spanish!) I’ve learnt how to make clay bricks with local villagers in Nyaungshwe, Myanmar. I’ve spent time with people seeking asylum in Dunkirk, France. From Peru to Australia, strangers have invited me into their homes and generously shared their company (and delicious meals) with me. I’ve lived in 6 different cities, in 4 different countries, and been lucky to visit many more. I’ve supported young people in Bury, chatted with locals while working in a pub near Piccadilly, and tutored teenagers in Hulme. And in the past week, I’ve done some serious stretching with older and younger neighbours at Chair Yoga, one of Manchester Cares’ Virtual Social Clubs.
Each person I've encountered through these experiences has their own unique view of the world, and their own story to tell. Age, gender identity, cultural background, upbringing, language - these elements and more are woven into the intricate, colourful tapestry of every life and every personality. So what common thread connects them all? It’s my second week at Manchester Cares, and the phrase “People are people” has already come up a fair few times. No matter our circumstances, we all have human concerns; we worry about our health, we notice our own flaws way more than other people’s, we ruminate on the past, we form bad habits - the list could go on and on. We all have human needs too, whether physical, emotional or mental, and often a combination of the three. We need to feel cared for and to know that we belong to a group, to a place, to a family or network. I was drawn to Manchester Cares because our work hones in on this need for connection that both older and younger people experience, while striving to understand the complexity of each person’s situation, and reduce potential barriers to accessing support and social opportunities.
I have been privileged to work as a teacher, facilitator and mentor in a number of different contexts, roles that have allowed me to hear and witness first-hand the challenges, progress, triumphs and talents of my students. And believe me, it’s usually me doing the learning!
One of the things that fascinates me is empowering people to find their passions and interests and to explore different parts of their identity. How best to do this? By opening up space and opportunities for people to share what they love with others, and creating a friendly atmosphere where they feel able to chat, tell stories and be themselves. I’ve bonded with Noor, a mother and Syrian refugee in Merseyside, over a shared love of baking (though my cake decorating skills aren't quite at her level!) I’ve had fervent conversations about activism and the Black Lives Matter movement with Mary, aged 80, from London. I’ve recited French poetry with Bijan, in his early thirties, from Iran.
I believe Love Your Neighbour plays a crucial role in bringing people together who may otherwise never have met or had an insight in to each other’s lives, only to find they have loads in common, make each other laugh, or inspire each other with their values or outlook on life. Our friends are not just people we hang out and have fun with, but also people who mirror facets of ourselves and challenge us, enabling us to develop a stronger sense of self and of our place in the world. In short, friends are people who feel like home.
I may love to explore new places and meet people from all over the world, but after 4 years away, I am excited to call the vibrant, diverse city of Manchester my home again, and to get to know our fantastic network of older and younger neighbours.
If you or someone you know would like to get involved with Love Your Neighbour then get in touch with Izzy on [email protected]
Posted by Izzy Zimšek on Thursday 29th April 2021
Love Your Neighbour Programme Coordinator