Bridging the Bayous

Extracurricular, travel, and home services such as tennis lessons, tour guides, and home repair aren’t cheap. Many people micro-manage their budget to afford for these services. Fortunately, there is a new system of banking that has made its way to the Terrebonne-Lafourche area.

Timebanking is a time-based currency that is bringing communities closer together across the United States. Members of timebanking communities volunteer their hours to help others and in return they receive the same amount of hours as credit to their account. They can then “cash in” those hours earned to receive the services they need. Jennifer Gaudet, Associate Director for Individual and Family Assistance for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, has brought the system to the area with the Bridging the Bayous Timebank.

“People who ordinarily volunteer for their churches, their schools, their museums, their foodbanks, and other places can earn timebanking hours while they are volunteering their time,” Jennifer says.

The Bridging the Bayous Timebank that was just officially established in September, already has over 60 members with another 43 people in the waiting pool. Each member must pass a background check, complete the Diocesan Safe Environment Training Program, and sign the Bridging the Bayous Timebank Liability Form before they can join. Once someone becomes a member, they can post services needed or services offered on the program’s website. Although Bridging the Bayous Timebank is a Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux program, it is open to all faith denominations.

Jennifer has first-hand experience using the timebanking system. She earned her hours by working in the concessions at E.D. White Catholic High School, one of the 50 current schools, businesses, churches, and organizations that are part of the timebanking system. Another member posted on the website that she liked to refinish furniture and Jennifer asked for her services to complete an unfinished kitchen table she had previously purchased. The volunteer picked up the table from Jennifer’s house and refurbished the table and all it cost her was the price for the brushes, Polyurethane, and some hours she had stored in her timebank.

Although the timebank focuses more on a regional area of participants helping each other, there is what is known as “intertrading” with other timebanks worldwide.

“For example, there is one timebank located on the Hawaiian Islands,” Jennifer says, “If I happen to go on the island that has the timebank then I can go on a tour of the islands and it’ll only cost me timebank hours. So I’ll be saving a lot of money.”

Jennifer hopes the timebank not only brings in people who are willing to volunteer hours so they can receive services, but who also want to bring relief to those in need, such as the sick and elderly.

“Say there is someone who is sick and asking for house cleaning help,” she says, “You’re doing more than just house cleaning. The weight of not being able to do is lifted. They feel clean which helps make their illness more bearable because they don’t have the feel of dirt.  You’re reaching way inside the soul of another person.”

An overview of the program and member registration can be found on their website.