The social benefits of volunteering are widely recognised across the many forms it can take. It can help to give volunteers a sense of belonging and can provide a great deal of satisfaction which they may not get from elsewhere.
Although the volunteer work force of heritage attractions tends to be from the higher age demographic, there is a wide range of people from all ages and walks of life involved with the running of the South Devon Railway. The common interest in heritage railways brings everyone together and has produced a community of its’ own based around the railway, where everyone works towards the same common goal as an integrated micro-society.
We would be expecting a similar mix to be involved at Ashburton Station Heritage Centre, although it is predominantly the younger generation who are beginning this journey and want to save their heritage before it is too late. We feel it is essential that this heritage is saved for the community and future generations. The social benefits of having all ages integrating together is usually quite difficult to achieve, it often seems that sadly, in today’s society the older and younger generations don’t integrate very well, but with the South Devon Railway as proof, a common interest can help all members of a community interact with each other and help each other out. The benefits reach further than the boundaries of the railway, with new friendships struck together and volunteers often offer assistance to other members and the community that they would otherwise not have.
With the station back at the heart of the Ashburton community, we believe there would be a lot of interest from the residents to help and become involved, which would then transfer outside the railway bringing a better sense of community to everyone. Being able to learn more about their town and the importance it has had for many centuries will add to a sense of ‘ownership’ helping the community feel proud of where they have come from and take more pride in their town. Working closely with other social and heritage groups in the town, we would hope to become a strong member of the community and plan our part in its’ social and economic prosperity.
The additional money brought into Ashburton from the heritage / educational centre and railway would strengthen the local economy, provide better job security and deliver new job opportunities, meaning younger members of the community will not always need to move away from the town to find work, keeping more money in the local economy.
Our intension to run an educational centre will provide access for local education institutes to valuable resources, working with them we would aim to offer facilities to teach both young and old about the heritage of the area, the social and industrial impact of railways, science i.e. engineering and physics, and potentially open up a whole new range of practical activities to assist with their education. We could offer workshops for learning crafts such as woodwork, metalwork, building maintenance and more, we would be looking to make the same facilities available for any other interested groups.
Alongside the educational centre we intend to run a ‘Young Volunteers’ group within Friends of Ashburton Station to encourage younger members of the community to get involved, learn new skills, both practical and social, which will be helpful to them later in life and offer them constructive additional leisure activities. We hope this would offer them a practical outlet for their youthful energy and enthusiasm. We would also like to run a few community events at the station site, open days etc. which we would hope help the community to get involved and feel like they are a part of the ‘family’.
There is also potential for the railway to be a method of public transport for local residents, travel cards will be available for local residents and there are other opportunities to develop this provision further if the interest is there.
Summary of Social Benefits.
- Potential job creation – longer term (also economic).
- Strengthen sense of community by providing a project and roles they can all get involved with and be proud of.
- Promotion and teaching of heritage – social and cultural.
- Offers new opportunities for voluntary participation.
- New opportunities to learn about Ashburton and the local area and their place in history and the future.
- Work in partnership with local community groups to improve community participation in local events.
Working with younger members of the community to teach them new skills and offer additional constructive leisure activities for them.