Stoke-on-Trent North Community Share Network

On 30th September we hosted a virtual community share network event. The purpose of the event was to share stories of how Covid-19 had affected groups and organisations’ ability to carry out their usual work or social action. It was a really useful session to ecplore how people had to adapt or change as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

Click here to watch a recording of the event

LOCKDOWN STORIES

Iona Jones from The Angel, Cobridge

We’re happy for you to share with others what we’ve been able to do over the past few months. It isn’t anything like as much as we hoped but at least we’ve had some contact with our lovely Angel and Cobridge Kiddies people.

  • During their permitted hourly exercise walks at the beginning of lockdown, Catherine and the children delivered plants and sweets to cheer up the older folk who attend activities at The Angel. They chatted to people at a safe distance.
  • They also delivered fun activities bags to Cobridge Kiddies families – including one toilet roll in each bag as this was at the time of the great toilet roll shortage!
  • We recorded Howard reading stories and playing songs for the Cobridge Kiddies and Angel Facebook pages and we’ve just started doing FB live recordings for Humpty Dumpty Club and have had more people watching than normally attend the group.
  • We had funding from Food for Life and gave out vegetable seeds to all the Angel people and the CK families (plus ‘how to grow’ books for the children). We also gave each person/family a £10 Aldi voucher to use as they needed.
  •  We had more funding from a philanthropist and so Howard made loaves and scones and we gave individuals and families cream teas. With the same funding we bought more Aldi vouchers and are giving out larger amounts to people in significant need as we find out about them.
  •  Howard has been making occasional phone calls to check how people are.
  • As part of my part time role with My Community Matters, I hosted two pot luck picnics at The Angel, funded by Food for Life. Because of very limited space and the need to be Covid safe, there were just 3 people plus me at the first one and 4 people (all from the same family) and me at the second one.
  • My Community Matters has also commissioned Howard to make some cooking videos which are being posted on the MCM FB page.
  • We’ve received some ward budget to buy sanitising equipment in order to make The Angel Covid safer.
  • We didn’t do take away soup or coffee mornings as it was logistically very difficult.
  • We haven’t been able to look after the community garden for the past few months and so it’s very overgrown. The good news is that we’ve partnered with Number 11 in Burslem as they have a new gardening team called Dig Deep. They are coming this Friday and next Monday to help us to get the garden back into shape so that we can re-start the weekly sessions with a small group of young people.         

Daniel Lyttleton – My Community Matters

In Burslem I have been meeting with the camera club, walking in the park and meeting new people in the area at a safe distance. It has been lovely to see how a simple act of walking with cameras can help to prompt conversations and build new relationships in this vital community asset. 

The group have helped to form relationships with other groups, such as the bowlers and regular exercise group for the elderly, which we have also made work about. 

The group received funding for a community picnic, which we spread over a couple of weeks to help maintain engagement with certain members that couldn’t make the initial date. We have documented this with photographs, along with individuals’ portraits of the people we have met throughout the weekly meet. 

The group would like to take some ownership of the allotment space in the park, and we have discussed this idea with the allotment manager. 

We are now in the process of setting up a CIC, and see if we look for funding for future ideas, creative workshops, talks, cooking sessions etc. 

In this difficult time, we have all managed to remain positive through these weekly meets, and phone calls, whilst facilitating the natural interests of the group. 

Speakers from the Network Event

John Webbe Emmaus

John spoke of how he had to furlough staff during lockdown.  He still saw a need for people to drop off donations so he worked a few hours in the week with a couple of volunteers to open the shop to accept donations socially distanced.  He also sold items on his Facebook page and people were able to collect them safely.

During lockdown he has supported agencies in supplying furniture for homeless people who were found accommodation to keep them safe off the streets.  In fact, in ran out of beds and then had problems purchasing more because of the lack of wood.

Emmaus has recently employed a Volunteer Co-Ordinator to support the volunteers.  To be flexible and get more customers through the door Emmaus now sells – bric-a-brac, clothes, electrical goods and paint. 

John is going to send us the presentation that we can pass onto others.

Vicki Gwynne Middleport Matters

Vicki told us of how they diversified during lockdown and supported over 30 families in the area with food and essentials during lockdown. The also sent out activity packs and homework to the young people to keep them busy. Staff are now knocking on doors to talk to the vulnerable people in the neighbourhood.  Through COVID they had 3 staff and 4 volunteers.  Now they have 6 staff and 5 volunteers.

Middleport Matters is funded by the Lottery, £300K for 3 years and other funds vary – CV19 funding received was £18,500 which was all returned to the community.

Middleport Matters next barrier will be continued funding now that the ‘emergency grants’ have ended as they have identified that there is a need for financial and food ongoing support as well as the social support that they have capacity for.  Then identifying the at-risk individuals who are not already known to them.  Vicki said that social distancing and shielding was very apparent in the older generation but they safely knocked on doors and supported them with food, puzzles, books and a chat.

What people found interesting at the Event

  • Was good to see how other small charities have coped and are coping in the pandemic.
  • Hearing everyone’s experiences
  • Vicki’s use of statistics and knowledge of her area to really target the support needed
  • All the good work happening within our communities
  • Great to hear what organisations are doing in more depth and the impact it has had on groups and individuals.
  • Hearing how different organisations have been impacted and how they have had to adapt their services
  • Given me some engagement ideas to initiate
  • Useful to network and reconnect with other groups
  • Is good to work in unison with others and not in competition.
  • Liked the collaboration tools used and was good to engage with other members of the group

Future topics for Next Events

  • Training volunteers for COVID secure events.  How do volunteers differ to staff in terms of working bubbles?
  • Keeping volunteers engaged during this time
  • An event focussed on older people in communities
  • Partnership/collaborative grant applications and how we can support each other more

Further Information

  • VAST are doing a volunteer management course session in a few weeks.  Contact them for more information
  • YASHA are here to build safe relationships around women affected by prostitution and sexual exploitation.  To provide practical and emotional support and also chaplaincy support. They can help women find routes out.
  • Middleport Matters has a Youth Forum with 23 Children and Young People if you want youth voice for ideas/activities

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