Lara Winters, Resident Involvement Officer meets Chrissy and Will Durrant, the founders of Community Action Network (CAN) to find out more about their recent award – Environmental Heroes as well as CAN.
Last month, I met Chrissy and Will Durrant to chat to them about their outstanding achievement of winning the “Environmental Hero of the Year Award, York Mix Heroes Awards “for their founding of and work within Community Action for Nature (CAN).
Image: Chrissy and Will Durrant, the founders of Community Action Network (CAN)
Chrissy and Will shared their emotional experience of winning the award, with Chrissy stating “it was an absolute honour to win, but even more so to even be shortlisted in the first place” as there are hundreds of nominations each year.
I was interested to understand how it all began, Chrissy and Will explained it started in2014, when we asked permission from Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) to clear the Jon Barker Wyatt Walk so it was accessible for people to walk through and for nature to thrive. From there, CAN was born, from planting seeds, litter-picking, recycling, advocating for local environmental issues to organising educational events and displays for schools and community spaces. It doesn’t seem like there is anything this power- couple can’t achieve.
I’ll be honest. My intentions when reaching out to Chrissy and Will were initially to highlight their recent accolade, regardless of whether they won or not. But as I was sat with them at their dining table talking about their lives, experiences and dedication to the world around them. I knew that I needed to write so much more than that. I needed to write about a couple who have done so much yet asked for nothing in return and remain so incredibly humble.
Their love not only for the natural world and their community, but the love, admiration and respect they have for each other is truly inspirational.
What struck me the most, was how humble both Will and Chrissy were about all they have achieved so far throughout their lives together.
Their main ethos appears to be inclusivity, with Chrissy stating, “we wouldn’t be able to do this without our volunteers”. Both went on to elaborate on how anyone and everyone is welcome in CAN,
This is demonstrated by how they ensure their projects are wheelchair accessible, and also suitable for anyone struggling with their mental health. Will discussed how if people are easily triggered or overwhelmed by large groups, there are quieter days, and people are welcome to simply sit and immerse themselves in the scenery or sounds surrounding them.
Chrissy mentioned that activities such as litter picking can be made accessible for anyone who wishes to be involved, regardless of physical or cognitive ability.
A great example of this in action is how patients from Foss Park hospital have joined in on many occasions, engaging with activities organised by CAN which has supported them greatly in their recovery. Both also made clear that regardless of gender, race, faith, sexuality or age, all are welcome providing everyone is accepting of each other’s differences.
Prominent members of the New Earswick Community including the Major and Mayoress celebrating the coronation of King Charles III with the installation of a stunning bench by Will with the support of the CAN team
What I didn’t expect was how much more the couple do for other causes. Both are incredibly talented craftspeople with Will making stunning ornaments and bird boxes with his wood turning skills and Chrissy making beautiful, embroidered pieces such as reading cushions (complete with a children’s book which matches the fabrics used!) and badges supporting overseas relief efforts.
During covid, Chrissy also made masks for the community, only begrudgingly accepting donations to cover costs when material prices soared. As well as CAN, St Leonards Hospice also benefits greatly from the couples’ craft sales and fundraising events.
The staff and facilities of St Leonards Hospice were of great comfort and support to them both at the harrowing times when both Will’s late-wife and Chrissy’s late-husband spent them final stage of their lives.
With all the stories I was told at my visit, I could have happily stayed longer to listen to more and extended this by at least a few pages, but now knowing how modest both Will and Chrissy are, I’m going to keep this as short as possible, which trust me, isn’t proving easy.
Moved by their stories, I asked as JRHT’s Resident Involvement Officer if there is anything I can do. Chrissy mentioned that it would be a great help if someone was able to volunteer to manage their small social media accounts for a few hours each week. Due to how hard Will and Chrissy work for so many amazing causes, this task is understandably low on their priority list (Though, if you ask me, I’d happily shout their relentless efforts from the rooftops every morning on their behalf!).
It’s not much, and it’s certainly not enough, but if you happen to come across this; on behalf of everyone here at JRHT and JRF, we are so incredibly proud and grateful to have you and all CAN’s volunteers as part of the community.
More about CAN and how to get involved
CAN (Community Action For Nature) -https://www.facebook.com/CommunityActionForNature/
If anyone is interested in supporting CAN with their social media or would like to get involved in any other way, you are welcome to contact Chrissy and Will at email@example.com or Lara Winters firstname.lastname@example.org or 07976 971394 if you would prefer an introduction or any advice