Rob Barnett: Timebuilders

  • 2 min read

Rob Barnett describes an innovative scheme in Sheffield and how, for one individual, being involved has been a life-changing experience.

St Mary's Church

“I’ve used TimeBuilders to build my own confidence and to share it with other people.”

Those are the words of a Timebuilders volunteer speaking to me, fittingly, on World Mental Health Day.

This man is one of many to have benefitted from TimeBuilders’ varied volunteering programmes, which range from transforming surplus food into meals to running a communal workshop.

TimeBuilders is Sheffield’s innovative time-banking initiative. They have hubs of projects and activities all over Sheffield, based on the ideas and energy of volunteers.

Volunteers earn a time-credit for each they contribute to a project. Time-credits can later be spent on an hour of something fun or educational; a guitar class, a language class, tickets and vouchers from local leisure organisations or even a day trip.

The volunteer explains: “People can go on a litter pick and earn some time credits.

“I feel they get a bit of self-worth then as well. They get a little pay back for the good that they’ve done, collecting litter, and basically bringing people together.

“I think there’s a lot of lonely people out there who live literally a street away from someone else who is lonely and if you bring them together you create a support network.”

Through his involvement with TimeBuilders, this Sheffield man became a volunteer for Sheffield Mind, the mental health charity, at their Springboard Café which is run in St Mary’s Community Centre on Bramall Lane.

Recalling when he first got involved, he says: “I was personally really down and depressed. I’ve been through a bad experience myself a few years ago.

“I used to be really anxious, really nervous. I wouldn’t go out to anything new.

“I found TimeBuilders so easy, just to slot in. I found a lot of comfort in people who had suffered anxiety themselves, had suffered isolation themselves.

“I didn’t feel judged. I felt like it was a very open conversation. I felt a sense of quite a big support network within the groups.”

Having done a leadership training course, he now runs a table tennis group at the Springboard Café and is soon to start a paid job as a Support Worker for Mind.

“There’s one guy who I’ve been supporting in the Springboard Café who’s hopefully going to run his own TimeBuilders group”, he continues.

“He thought he’d never be able to do that because his confidence was so low but it’s great at building confidence, it really is.

“It’s a pretty simple set-up. Anyone can come in. There’s quite a few people there who have been through some rough times and just by sharing their stories people can develop mindfulness from that.

“I think it’s just a great scheme that builds confidence in people. That’s the thing that jumps out at me all the time anyway.

“I’ve referred some people to TimeBuilders and they’re not too sure and then a few weeks later you see them much more confident; they’ve made friends.”

For more about TimeBuilders, visit their website: 

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