Once, long ago, home to our ancestors might have been a long valley, with a deep forest and high hills and it would have reached as far as the horizon, shrinking at night to a central fire and the familiar faces gathered around. In those days, food was what people caught or grew and shelter was what they built for themselves. To survive, the tribe had to work together.
These traditions have not disappeared. The origin of Bayanihan, for example, can be traced to a tradition in Philippine towns where community members help a family move to a new place by actually carrying the house there. They use a strong frame of bamboo poles to lift it up, with a man positioned at the end of each pole. In modern society, Bayanihan has also been adopted as a term that refers to a local civil effort to resolve national issues.
The Amish barn raising is another tradition still kept today. The community pulls together to build a barn for a family or farm. A leader with experience and skills is chosen to manage the whole thing, whilst other elders lead work teams that include younger people taking part for the first time. Local farmers and foresters produce much of the timber for the barn and building skills are passed from generation to generation. It’s nothing like a bunch of builders from Brum turning up with a pile of breezeblocks and their diggers.
A Talkoot is the Finnish expression for a gathering of friends and neighbours who set out to repair a community building or put homes or gardens in order for the summer and in Norway, the Dugnad is associated with outdoor spring cleaning and gardening and building in housing co-operatives. “Dugnadsånd” is translated as “the spirit of will to work together for a better community” which is regarded as a typical Norwegian thing to have.
Mink’a is a type of traditional communal work in the Andes carried out for the benefit of the whole community and still practiced in indigenous communities in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile. Naffīr (نفير) is an Arabic word for the same idea, in which a group is recruited through family networks, in-laws and village neighbours for some particular purpose such as building a house or providing help during the harvest season.
And so it goes on from country to country and culture to culture. People have always done stuff together. Important stuff.
“Home Presteigne” is a cooperative organisation for housing. It was registered in 2013 as a Community Benefit Society, so that local people could plan and develop sustainable homes that are affordable to buy or rent and live in, based on local incomes.
Home Presteigne has been working hard to create a serious framework in which people of the town might take an active role in the whole process of affordable housing provision, whether they need homes or whether they simply wish to support www.home-presteigne.co.uk
Written for Broad Sheep Magazine July 2014