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A day in the life of a Community Development Worker is active, re-active and never the same as Hannah Kitchen-Kirby explains: 

Inspiring Leith is a community development project, celebrating the amazing things about life in Leith and bringing together local people to have fun and create positive change.

Colin (Inspiring Leith Community Coordinator) and I work as a team, supporting groups and sometimes meeting people individually. The aim of the project is to encourage local people to start their own groups and projects, rather than us to decide for them.  

We’ve found that the ingredients for positive change already exist in the skills, ideas and relationships of local people. 

Zumba Class instructor teaching a class in Leith

9:30am – Morning Connection: One-to-one meeting 

The day begins with a one-to-one coffee with Jackie*, a member of the community. I’m gradually getting to know them through meeting at a couple of activities recently. We work in a flexible, informal way, trying to look out for people who are not already involved in lots of things and who might benefit from some more connection.  

In a local café, I listen to Jackie, especially noticing their strengths, interests, and hopes for their life and local area.

Along with laughing about all sorts of things, Jackie shared some important challenges so I go back to the office to reflect on what I’ve heard. I find some details of support that they might find helpful, and send it on to them.

I will meet with them again if they want to, or perhaps they will want to attend one of the groups that happen every week. I hope the space I’ve provided has helped them to figure out what their next step is.

11am – Community Research and Human Rights Course 

Late morning, Colin and I head to the community centre for the first week of a group course with residents of a local council-owned block of flats. We’re lucky enough to have Clare MacGillivray from Making Rights Real with us. We explore community-led action research, human rights, participation, and democracy.  

Through dialogue, residents are designing the second stage of a survey about housing conditions in the building. We also have lunch, smile at the youngest member of our group (9 months old).

We talk about Leith’s motto, ‘Persevere’, learning about Leithers’ reputation for resilience and fortitude.

This group certainly has perseverance by the bucket-load, having successfully campaigned for improvements to their building, and put on amazing community events over the last few years.

This course will give them time to design the next stage of their research project, monitoring improvement or decline for key human rights indicators which they set last year including issues such as mould, accessibility, communication and repairs.

Leith Craft Group set up by Inspiring Leith

2pm – Afternoon Upcycling Project 

After a great session, Colin heads to the hands-on upcycling group. The group gathers in the local community space at a shopping centre, armed with creativity, sandpaper and paint. Together, they rejuvenate damaged furniture in innovative ways, transforming discarded pieces into unique treasures which will go on to be sold in Bethany charity shops, raising funds for the charity’s broader work on homelessness. 

3pm – Reflections and Future Plans 

I check emails and arrange details for an upcoming trip with the Conversation Group. This diverse gathering of local English speakers and New Scots is more than a language exchange.

it’s a space where individuals learn from each other, fostering mutual understanding.

Helping group members participate involves contacting them individually to check on their needs for childcare, translation, food and arranging where to meet so we travel together. This is the practical side of enabling participation – relationships and text reminders – using a lot of translating apps!

I really hope that the group will enjoy the event and develop their sense of having so much to contribute to Leith, and Scotland through their skills and experiences. 

5pm – End of the Day 

Colin returns from Upcycling, having dropped off books to members of the online Book Group which is meeting on Friday. This group began meeting during the pandemic and has continued since then. They love a good drama, and don’t shy away from reading about big issues, using stories to share and reflect on their own journeys too.

We have a quick chat about groups, people and family life. Our lives outside of work influence our work. Creating an atmosphere of care is essential to the work we are very thankful to be able to do. 

Hannah Kitchen-Kirby, Community Development Worker (Inspiring Leith) 

Inspiring Leith is a service within Leith, Edinburgh. It has been running since 2012 harnessing the strengths, skills and resources of local people in Leith. 

Read more about the service here. 

*Not real name