I was born in Oldbury not far from where I live now, which is also opposite the school I went to. I was born at home in Moore Crescent nearly 75 years ago, in 1947. That was during the bad winter that they had. The snow was still on the ground when I was born in April. We were a poor family, but I had some older siblings that were my half-sisters because my dad was married twice. His first wife had died. Then he met and married my mom and I was the eldest of my mom’s.
My dad suffered from ill health so there was never a lot of money. But we had a lot of fun growing up. My younger sisters and I liked making mud pies in the garden. We had a good childhood. There weren’t lots of toys or anything like that, we just made our own entertainment. We were loved and we had lots of fun between us.
I was the tomboy and always in trouble for climbing trees. Whatever went wrong, I got the blame for it. Well, it’s made me the person I am today. We weren't allowed to go to play out in the street. We played in our own back garden. We had got a really big garden that used to grow vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, and peas. We spent Saturdays looking over the cabbages to find the caterpillars to get rid of. We kept chickens and we grew a lot of our food. All of the scraps went into what was called the pig bin.
I worked all my life and when I retired I started volunteering at the Dorothy Parkes Centre. This was in 2004. I finished work in the April and I then would do voluntary work. So I was volunteering down at the centre. Then I became ill, I was really very poorly. I ended up in hospital in January. I was in hospital for three months and after that, I sank into depression. But I was able to go back to church and the Tuesday church group started to have lunch so I went to those. There was also a sewing group going and I started going to these groups. The centre was really there for me when I needed it the most. I began to pick up myself and I started to volunteer. When Rob came I started doing the floors. They are too much for me now, but as long as I can continue to do the afternoon teas I will do.
So that's how I came to volunteer, to give back for what I had from the centre and when I needed it the most. And I could never do enough to give back from what it’s given me. I’m still getting from the centre now. By volunteering, I'm still getting a lot from the centre. I get a sense of belonging, a sense of worth, it makes me feel that my life is not useless. You get a lot of love from there.
Community is the people that are around you. It’s about being able to contribute and help other people in the community. It’s about being selfless rather than selfish, it’s about not doing what is always going to benefit you more than it's going to benefit others. It's about caring. That’s what community is. It’s caring about each and every one of us. Community is inclusive. It does not matter what sex, race, gender, or non-gender. It’s being completely inclusive and accepting of all.
Our wealth is in our health. It's belonging. It’s caring, that’s what makes the wealth.
It’s also about believing in people. I would like to see our society less violent, more inclusive than it is now, and more peaceful.