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Exeter Community Wellbeing – Being a Community Builder

Published: 3 July 2020

Community Wellbeing Blog 10 Maisaa Sweid, Wellbeing Exeter Community Builder for Duryard and St. James

The Exeter community is not one to stand still and yet again we’ve had a multitude of reports of activities and acts of kindness that bring a smile, and sometimes a tear. The overwhelming theme in conversations we’ve had with people this week has been a message of hope and a commitment to moving forward out of this shared crisis experience together, to build a better world.

The staff of Vranch house, an independent day school in Exeter, recently ran 5km in memory of a child in their number who passed away not long ago. 11 of the Vranch House staff ran the Children's Hospice South West Rainbow Run in memory of Henry Dunn. They set off from the school at 9:30am on Saturday 22nd June on their joint endeavour. Children’s Hospice South West support many of the Vranch House children and their families. An incredible £1,300 was raised in sponsorship by the 11 strong group of runners – some completing an event like this for the first time!

If you would like to support Team Vranch in their fundraising for Children's Hospice South West, you can find the details on JustGiving.

In Heavitree creativity has once again joined hands with community spirit as the Brownies, Beavers and pupils from St Michaels Academy and Ladysmith Schools made 'Smile Cards’.

These colourful handmade cards are being delivered to isolating and shielded people by volunteers, a cheerful addition to the deliveries of prescriptions and shopping. The effort has been coordinated by the Wellbeing Exeter Community Builder for Heavitree. These cards are doing exactly as intended. One recipient commented, “The beautiful card with the drawing of the sun really made me smile,” and another said the card was, “a little symbol of hope and kindness”.

Being a Community Builder

Wellbeing Exeter is a partnership of organisations that work together to provide the firm foundations for individuals and communities in Exeter to improve and promote their own health and wellbeing. Wellbeing Exeter Community Builders are an integral part of this approach. Working and often living in the neighbourhoods they work alongside, Community Builders focus on learning about what’s going on in their areas and connecting people to each other. That might be letting a new mum know about a local parents’ group or putting someone in touch with a community larder, a new friend with similar interests or a service that they are interested in. Community Builders are pillars of the ‘villages’ that make up our city. It’s through them that we hear so many stories of all the brilliance going on across the area. We thought, in this blog, we’d give you a chance to get to know a bit more about the people behind the role.

Maisaa Sweid, Wellbeing Exeter Community Builder for Duryard and St. James

“As a Syrian, I lived most of my life surrounded by a very tight knit community and had a rich social life. I have been doing all I can to recreate this community feel where I live, and so it felt like the right calling for me to become a Wellbeing Exeter Community Builder.

I had only started my job in January, so was just coming out of my training when the pandemic started and I didn’t have a deep enough knowledge of the communities I was supposed to support back then. Duryard and St James is an especially huge area to cover. The best solution to this was to encourage people to set up community groups at street level so that those who need help, and those who can help, can reach each other through those groups. WhatsApp groups helped enhance the sense of neighbourhood and connection regardless of requests for support.

“I am also liaising with a huge pool of volunteers who are keen to support vulnerable people in the community and we can’t thank them enough for their kindness and care. 

“There have been plenty of uplifting stories of warmth and care during the lockdown in the areas I have been supporting. For example, one neighbour is baking bread for her neighbours who are NHS doctors as a sign of appreciation. In each neighbourhood most people are also sharing tips and advice on health, places to exercise, things to do at home, shopping, recipes, plants, books, etc.

“One elderly man said about the volunteer he is matched with: ‘He is a star and he deserves a medal’. This is a sentiment that is shared by many people who found themselves requiring support, and after initially being worried about this, were relieved to see their neighbours there for them.

“We are trying at the moment to brighten up the display boards across the ward by putting up crafts, drawings, and memories of the lockdown to be displayed in the neighbourhood as a reminder of how this community held each other during the hard times.

“Many people commented that it’s so lovely to socialise with neighbours, in many cases for the first time, through WhatsApp community groups. They also commented that this positivity should continue and we need to keep it after the pandemic is over; to maintain this connection that we started in a time of difficulty. Many are now looking forward to meeting more in outdoor areas to socialise, exercise in small groups or look after our local green spaces in person as the lockdown rules ease.

“There is now a very strong sense that we need to build on the positive that came out of the negativity of the pandemic, and that positive is the renewed sense of community and togetherness. Therefore, we should not go ‘back’ to normal when we get out of lockdown. We must instead go ‘forward’ to a society that is more connected, supportive, collaborative, and empathetic.”

You can get in touch with Maisaa by email at:

These strange times have been challenging for all of us, but rays of light have blazed their way through the sometimes heavy clouds. This week’s stories and contributions are yet another testament to the resilient and compassionate nature of our city as a community. We feel sure that the lessons learned in ‘lockdown’ will not go to waste as we make our plans, as individuals and as a city, for a brighter future.

Exeter Community Wellbeing

To request support, as an individual or a community group, get in touch with Exeter Community Wellbeing:

Phone: 01392 265000

Lines open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm

Exeter Community Wellbeing is co-ordinated by a team including Wellbeing Exeter partners, Devon Community Foundation, Exeter Community Initiatives and Exeter City Council. Funding partners include Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and Sport England.

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