We can all do that little bit extra to help others

By Richard Millard, Leader of East Hampshire District Council

In 2020 I hope we can bring together those who have been forced apart. I have read that the nation has never felt more divided. If this is true, how do we heal the rifts?

Here in East Hampshire we may not be in a position to settle national and international disputes, but we can certainly help bridge the divides in our own district.

By and large East Hampshire is a prosperous place, but there are still many who need our support. People need a helping hand to lead healthy lives – mentally, physically and socially.

Welfare is one of East Hampshire District Council’s main priorities for 2020, with a particular focus on reducing social isolation and improving mental health in younger people.

We have set aside £1million to dedicate to the local charities and organisations which work to help our communities. The first wave of these grants was handed out in August, with 17 charities receiving funding for their work. More grants will be handed out in 2020 and 2021.

We have also put aside another £500,000 for welfare projects, while each councillor here has been given £4,500 to donate to worthy projects in their own ward.

In this way we can reach some of our communities’ most isolated residents – people who do not know where to go for help and might otherwise fall through the gaps of our traditional support networks.

It would take too much of your time to list the vast numbers of local groups that perform this vital work in East Hampshire but, by way of an example, I would like to make a special mention of the Charity Walk for Peace.

This annual event, now in its third year and run jointly by the council and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Elder Association, invites residents to come together for a 5k walk around Petersfield and then sit down for a delicious curry lunch.

Last May, around 300 people took part in this uplifting event which demonstrates, as well as any I can think of, that the ties which bind us are longer and stronger than the fissures that divides us.

More than £15,000 was raised for charities by the last walk and we look forward to hosting it again in June 2020 and I hope many more of you will join us for that.

If you don’t come for the exercise, the camaraderie or the sense of community spirit then you should at least come for the curry!

As a council it is our responsibility to set an example to others and help shape the communities we are part of.

And when we work together to look after the most vulnerable members of our society, bridging boundaries and drawing communities closer, it benefits us all.

In 2020 I hope we can all do that little bit extra to help others and keep East Hampshire as the caring, strong-hearted community we love.

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