By Fiyaz MUGHAL, Founder, Faith Matters.

Fiyaz

Fiyaz Mughal

A JEWISH friend of mine, citing an Chasidic rebbe, once said: “The only difference between a mirror where I see myself and a window through which I see my neighbour is whether I have covered my view over in kesef (Hebrew for both silver and money).”

It’s hard to create a nice community in the economic marketplace. Money measures only one type of value, and it’s difficult to quantify the giving gesture, the warm embrace, the kindly deed.

People with a lot to give can sometimes become marginalised when we judge their monetary value to society. This has become more important given the financial constraints that have been caused by the banking crisis and the tightening of financial belts.

It is clear many faith communities have stepped up to the mark to look at how communities can use the existing resources that they have. At such difficult times, valuing other resources and skills we have through “time exchanges” is one of the most easiest and basic ways of energising communities and giving hope to people and families.

Enter timebanking.

Developed in the 1990s by Edger S. Kahn, timebanking is a pattern of reciprocal service exchange that uses time, rather than money, as a currency.

It’s a simple idea that works well in communities that are richer in skills than money and it begins when someone with a skill to offer, say car maintenance, decides to help a neighbour repair his or her car for an hour.

Subsequently, the car mechanic gets an hour of service – say computer support – from a third party, and the person who is helped offers his or her own hour of service, say an art lesson, to someone else again. And so the scheme continues, with hours of “time currency” passed around the community in a sort of benign cycle, and in a really kind way.

It all sets out to show there is a new way, an ethical way, of valuing skills and the willingness to give one of the most precious commodities people have – their time. The idea is spreading quickly. In 1998 Martin Simon opened the first timebank in the UK, at Stonehouse in Gloucestershire.

There are now more than 300 timebanks in the UK involving more than 25,000 participants, who between them have given and received more than a million hours of mutual support. The Ivy House Timebanking Taster tweaks this model. Faith Matters is joining in because we support the universality of timebanking.

We are all teachers, and each of us has a unique skill to offer others.

For the Ivy House day, we have gathered experts with a passion for teaching useful, practical, fun and life- building skills for an hour-long class. There are more than 15 courses, from sushi rolling to car maintenance, from meditation to social-media skills and from cyber-security safety to family programming, plus a graffiti course for those aged over eight.

Attendance is free, but there is a catch – for each hour one spends in learning, one is obligated to “pay back” that hour in a volunteer activity in the future. Don’t worry about finding the right volunteer activity.

The Jewish Volunteering Network (JVN) will be happy to let you know how many hours you need to give back and a few good and local ways of volunteering that will make a difference.

No pressure, but if you wanted to take a selfie of you paying back your hours – a ‘receipt’ of sorts – please send it back to JVN for the online Timebanking montage.

• The Ivy House Timebanking Taster will run from 11am-5pm on Sunday 16 February at LJCC Ivy House. See the LJCC website ‘Timebanking Taster’ for an updated list of the teachers and sessions, and to register for the day.