The BBC's "Crossing Divides" season, this week's awareness campaigns (Loneliness Awareness Week, Neighbours Week, Refugee Week), and our (Oxfordshire Community Foundation) Community Friendship fund are all coming from the same place and share objectives.

Humans are a social being but we seem to be struggling to connect with people in our own communities.  Stats from these campaigns are very concerning:

- Only 5% of people feel very close to their neighbour

- Only 4 in 10 feel connected to their local community

- Three out of four GPs say they see between 1 and 5 people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely

-  Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month

This demonstrates that our deep need to be understood is not being met.  The consequences of this are more terrifying - we are seeing sharp increases in mental health issues and in turn self-harm and suicide.  

So what can we do?  As the BBC pointed out in their study of talking on public transport, we can all reach out and make contact with our neighbours.  Difference in age, race, religion, opinions, and wealth should not get in the way of us finding the common beliefs, experiences and values that we share as humans and members of our communities.

Sometimes we find that exposing ourselves to ideas which may be different to our own a risky endeavour.  We believe the community friendship fund can support the charities and community groups across Oxfordshire to overcome these fears, cross divides and build stronger communities.