Staying active with Mary Stevens Park Sons and Daughters of Rest

Mary Stevens Park in Stourbridge is an undeniably beautiful place to be. Whether you’re taking part in sport, walking the dog, enjoying a picnic or just watching the world go by, it’s a place that helps you to relax.

And based within the park is a group of people helping each other to make the most of later life, stay active and build a friendly and supportive community. They’re known as Mary Stevens Park Sons and Daughters of Rest and they have a range of activities for anyone over 55 and there are currently 70 or so members to get to know!

One of the activities group members participate in is bowls. The group has around 30 bowlers of all abilities; some bowl competitively against other clubs, others for the fun and exercise. The group’s bowling section has the bowling green on Monday afternoon, all day Wednesday and Friday afternoon. On Friday mornings they use the bowling green to run beginners bowls sessions, which are open to anyone of any age who would like to learn how to play bowls.

Helena and I recently paid the beginners sessions a visit on a sunny Friday morning where we met and chatted to some of the bowlers about what they enjoy about the sessions. Immediately members asked if we’d like to try, but neither of us was brave enough to give it a go!

We learned about some of the people taking part. One bowler told us that he used to bowl competitively but had stopped more than a decade ago. He wasn’t sure he would be able to play after double knee replacement surgery, so he started getting fitter by walking around the park, the distance of a mile, which took 15 minutes. It was on one of these walks that he saw the beginners bowlers sessions, so he took the plunge to see if he could bowl again. Now he covers more ground by bowling than when he walked a circuit of the park, so he’s much more active now.

Another member told us that he’d always been sporty, and that he enjoys playing bowls because he can’t do high intensity sports like cricket or football anymore. He enjoys playing in 4s and sometimes it can get competitive in a good-natured way. He told us that it’s good to meet new people at these sessions.

Stourbridge Sons and Daughters of Rest

A third member told us it was his first week there, so we asked him the obvious question “Will you be back for more?” Of course the answer was a resounding “Yes”. We’re not surprised at all. What came across to both of us was how welcoming, social and warm everyone was both towards us and to each other. Members agreed that the camaraderie of playing bowls together was brilliant for their health and wellbeing.

But if bowls isn’t your thing, there are other activities on offer and people can participate in as little or as much as they want. The Sons and Daughters of Rest meet three times a week, 12noon-4pm, and members have access to the group’s building every day. Members get together for a cuppa and a chat or for hobbies such as darts, dominoes, snooker, cards and pool. Whatever the activity, we know new people will be made really at home in this welcoming group.

Mary Stevens Sons and Daughters of Rest

If you would like to get involved, call Jim Griffiths (Chairperson) on 07918 197197 or look out for the Sons and Daughters of Rest in Mary Stevens Park, near the bowling green.

The groups making new friends on Wednesdays and Fridays

As part of the work I’m doing with Age UK to understand and celebrate the local activities that keep people connected, I’ve been meeting groups that help people to build new friendships in Brierley Hill and Dudley.

New Friends meets at 8pm every Wednesday at the Storehouse in Brierley Hill. I visited them recently and enjoyed an evening of conversation, quizzing and laughter!

The informal group was set up by Barbara, who wanted to expand her social circle after losing people close to her. So Barbara posted on Facebook, asking others if they would like to get together, meet new people and become friends, using this poem to grab people’s attention:

I used to have a comfort zone, where I knew I couldn’t fail.
The same four walls of busy work were really more like a jail.
I longed so much to do things I’d never done before, but stayed inside my safe comfortable zone and paced the same old floor.
I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much,
I said I didn’t care for things like dreams & goals and such.
I claimed to be so busy with the things inside my zone, but deep down inside I longed for something special of my own.
I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win.
I held my breath and stepped outside and let the change begin.
I took a step, and with new strength I’d never felt before, I kissed my comfort zone goodbye, then closed and locked the door.
Anon.

Barbara said “I felt like that after losing so many people out of my life in one year. So I started New Friends. Lots of people messaged me, over a thousand in 12 hours! 25 came the first night of meetings, majority stayed, until their confidence grew, and some picked up their life and started employment. Others just moved on to pastures new.”

New Friends now has 8 regular attendees who play games, share food, do quizzes or just have a natter. Everyone decides what they would like to do; occasionally they go out for meals and they’ve discussed taking trips together. Whatever they do, they have fun, end up laughing and the hours whiz by!

New Friends

Some of the New Friends and their leftover cake!

Group members would love more people to join them, but they recognise that it’s not just about how many turn up, it’s about the quality of the friendships they’ve made and the impact the friendships have had on their wellbeing.

None of the members knew each other before joining the group. Now they’re in touch with each other not only once a week when they meet, but on their Facebook group and chatline, swapping stories, guidance and supporting each other. When I chatted to them, every member said they felt the benefits to their wellbeing since joining.

It’s the second time I’ve joined New Friends for the evening; each time I’ve gone, I’ve felt a boost myself. I’ve been inspired by how open, warm and friendly everyone is, as well as by the simple things that Barbara does to help people feel at ease, like arranging chairs in a circle and meeting new people outside so they don’t have to walk in on their own for the first time.

New Friends flyer

So why not take the plunge and join New Friends? As Barbara says, “The hardest thing is stepping out your own front door and entering another by yourself. Please take that step, come n have a lof!” If you’re interested, you can ask to join the New Friends Facebook group or text or call the New Friends mobile number on 07491 798705 (text is best and Barbara will get back to you). Alternatively, just drop at the Storehouse, 2 Albion Street, Brierley Hill, DY5 3EE on Wednesday at 8pm.

 

Friday Friends currently meets on the second and last Friday of each month at 1pm at DY1 in Dudley.

Friday Friends developed when some members of Airtime, a group supporting people with respiratory conditions, felt that they would like to get together on another day to be with their newly-made friends more often. Like New Friends, Friday Friends is open to absolutely anyone over the age of 16, including people and their carers. Friday Friends now has regular members, some of whom are not members of Airtime.

Members decide exactly what they would like to do. When I visited, we chatted about each other’s weeks to help break the ice and we all took part in a couple of quizzes to get the brain firing! Once more, the stories of why people attended were very similar; it was about social contact being important for their emotional well being, getting out of the house and preventing isolation.

Some of the Friday Friends I met!

Friday Friends have plans to do more structured activities, such as bringing in occasional speakers on health, wellbeing and safety, having classes such as tai chi and massage. The group would like to build up its membership before committing to these activities, but current members know that it’s about the connections they’ve made and the supportive networks they’ve built simply by getting together twice a month that are more important than the activities they do! Again, when I met with members, I was struck by how welcoming and friendly they were, supporting each other to participate in inclusive ways. I’d also told Friday Friends members about New Friends and was so pleased when two members suggested they pay them a visit, so I hope that the two groups become friends themselves!

Anyone is welcome to join Friday Friends on the second and last Friday of the month, 1pm at DY1, Stafford Street, Dudley, DY1 1RT. For more information, you can ask to join the Friday Friends Facebook group.

 

The Hope Project – Building positive futures for people of all ages

Paul and Joanne Westwood arrived in Coseley three years ago with a vision to improve the lives and welfare of people in the community. They are now turning their ideas into a reality, building positive futures for people of all ages.

The Hope Project, presents three very distinct programmes, designed to positively impact the health and wellbeing of people in the community. Music Moves, a music based course supporting the emotional well-being of 11-17 year olds, Living Life to the Full, designed to support people who struggle with anxiety, low mood and depression, and Beauty for Ashes, designed to support survivors of domestic abuse.

We were invited to the celebration and launch of this new charity at their base, New Hope Baptist Church, a welcoming, vibrant and multi-use space located in the heart of Coseley, the perfect destination for three wonderfully different projects.

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Long before starting the Music Moves programme, Paul and Joanne were working with groups of young people in a youth club setting. They found that the young people came along to the club because they were a little at a loose end or for social reasons, a couple were a little introverted, anxious, and found it difficult to mix and communicate.

When arriving in Coseley 3 years ago, Paul, Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and musician of 20 years, decided to set up a music club to help young people to socialise, build confidence and play music together. It was at this point he realised how much young people of all backgrounds were communicating whilst playing music together, and the idea behind Music Moves started to grow…

Music Moves has been designed to positively impact the emotional well-being of young vulnerable people. It is a 12-week programme, primarily designed to introduce a new way for 11-17 year olds to cope with anxiety, emotional and physical bullying, and other mental health issues. Using a referral method through schools, health professionals, police and other agencies, the programme will take them on a journey of positive personal growth and development through the medium of music.

Paul said, “The structure of the programme is in three parts. The first 4 sessions we teach the young people to play something within their skill set, the second 4 week period is bringing them together collectively, in a band environment, and in the final 4 weeks we take them into the recording studio to produce a CD or a digital download. This means they will also be introduced to music production.”

Paul has worked with many young people who have experienced bullying in school, cyber bullying and anxiety, he has also worked over many years with young offenders, and understands the challenges faced by young people.

“We hope it will be a preventative model for those who struggle with low self-esteem and other mental health issues, and it will give them something they can do away from their usual environment of school.”

The Hope Project has successfully received £13,000 from East Coseley Big Local to finish equipping a recording studio at the church, and to pay professional musician Dan Healey to run the Music Moves programme. The studio has state of the art equipment that will allow young people to develop their skills in recording and also allow them to learn and master different instruments.

Dan is also a talented musician. During his musical career he has performed with major artists in the music industry and now teaches music at Wolverhampton University. He has a passion to support young people to develop their skills in music, and to help them interact and communicate in new and creative ways.

At the launch we heard a fantastic performance from the Music Moves pilot group, young people that had started out as complete beginners only a few months before, formed a band and had now built the confidence to perform to a live audience.

Living Life to the Full is a life skills 8-week programme, produced by psychologist, Dr Chris Williams, nationally recognised to support people who struggle with anxiety and low mood, and is designed to help people deal with life on a day to day basis.

Joanne was a nurse for 30 years before starting work with the church. “I found that a lot of people found it difficult to say that they were struggling with depression. To say I’m feeling really low or I’m anxious, to come forward and open up was a struggle for some people due to the stigma surrounding it, many had suffered for many years without coming forward. We decided to think about how we could support people with anxiety and low mood and people that suffer from depression.”

“Many people simply try to live with low mood and anxiety.  This can often lead to more severe mental health issues if no interventions are found.”

Joanne and Ruth Carter, also a nurse, working with patients with chronic pain, run the self-referral project together in a group setting, providing useful resources to people that may feel a little low and isolated in the community.

It’s a low intensity and practical programme, that’s not here to replace what the local mental health team does, but to complement it.

Joanne said, “We ran two pilot courses, mindful of those with faith and the struggles that they will encounter, and also those without faith. One of the great things that has come out of this is that one of the ladies wants to set up a peer support group so that there will be continued support for people in the community.”

Beauty for Ashes is a women’s group designed to support survivors of domestic violence who have removed themselves from the relationship. The group gives help, both emotionally and practically, to those who are trying to realise a positive future further on down the line, and in need of that extra bit of support.

Joanne said, “We knew we wanted to work with survivors of domestic violence as we had previously sat on a West Midlands Police steering group and we knew from that group how much of a need there was to do this.”

The aim of the group is to provide an environment of support, concentrating on overcoming personal difficulties that are experienced as a result of abuse and to help women to feel more equipped to lead improved and independent lives, building self-esteem and empowerment. Many of the women who attend will be at various stages in the rebuilding of their lives.

“Even though we are a church some of what we do is non-faith based. We wanted to do both groups. In some faiths there is a distorted belief that the man is the authority in the relationship and it’s difficult for women to come forward and talk about it.”

Joanne has successfully completed Power to Change, a Women’s Aid training course in order to help her to support women to have healthy relationships post domestic abuse. “The name Beauty for Ashes symbolises turning a really difficult and horrible situation into something that is really positive and good.”

Joanne and fellow church member Davinda, will fully launch Beauty for Ashes in the summer of 2019 and will again look at the two groups, those with faith and those without faith.

The Hope Project received support from Dudley CVS around 18 months ago when they first had the idea of setting up the project and the three associated programmes. “We knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t know how to do it. We were struggling for direction. Becky helped us to identify that a Community Interest Organisation (CIO) was the best route for us, whilst leaving it up to us to decide, she gave us good advice. We had time to question and take it all in, with what we thought was a minefield, she gave us the reassurance and guided us through it at our pace. Lorna, (Dudley CVS) supported us with an application for funding from East Coseley Big Local, she helped us to see our vision more clearly.”

“Dudley CVS gave us knowledge and information but allowed us to find our own direction.”

Paul, Joanne, and the rest of the team radiate enthusiasm and energy, you can see how committed and passionate they are about building positive futures and improving the well-being of local people of all ages.

“Our key ingredients are commitment, a pioneering spirit, compassion and willingness to work hard for no reward. We are non-judgemental and accept people where they are at in their lives.”

For more information on The Hope Project or associated programmes, please contact info@thehopeprojectcoseley.org.uk or visit the website at www.thehopeprojectcoseley.org.uk

Share how you’re connecting older people in your community

team-spirit-2447163_1920Dudley CVS is involved in a small piece of work with Age UK Dudley to help older people make connections in their communities that can combat loneliness, boost health and help people to be more resilient.

We’d like to shout about the great work that is already happening at a small scale, local level in community groups across Dudley borough, celebrate what they’re doing and learn about how we can support more of this type of activity.

If your group is helping older people to stay connected, or you’d like to get started, tell us:

  • What types of activities you do together, if you’re already doing things as a group
  • What more you would like to do – and what’s making it difficult to do more of what you’d like to do
  • What would help you to do continue or extend your activities

For inspiration, you might like to read about what Netherton Regeneration Group is doing to build kindness and social connectedness in their community.

If you get in touch, Helena and I will pay you a visit to help you to shout about the great things you’re up to and to offer you further support. So please, feel free to contact us using the comments section below, emailing smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk or calling Becky on 01384 573381.

 

A volunteer is for life … not just Volunteers Week!

The importance of saying thank you to your volunteers

What better way to introduce an article about celebrating and recognising volunteers than to talk about our fabulous main award and highly commended awardees from #dva17? These wonderful volunteers were nominated and recognised for their outstanding commitment, and desire to make a real difference in local communities.  We recently had two wonderful celebrations when the Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr Dave Tyler and Barbara, welcomed these exceptional volunteers to the Mayor’s Parlour and Council Chamber.  These lucky guests enjoyed a special behind the scenes tour, where they learnt lots of fascinating facts and enjoyed tea with the Mayor and Mayoress.

Volunteers Week a national celebration of all things volunteering

1st to 7th June is an annual celebration of volunteers and volunteering. It’s a great opportunity to do something special for your volunteers to say thank you and take the opportunity to maybe recruit some new volunteers too! So let’s get you thinking about how you will say thanks, celebrating and recognising your volunteers’ contributions.

I think this quote from NCVO’s Quick Guide to Thanking Volunteers will hopefully get you thinking … Saying thank you isn’t just for Volunteers Week, it should be an integral part of your volunteer programme…

 “On the surface, saying thanks is easy – we all do it every day without thought, but saying thanks in an organisational context can be a very different prospect. Firstly, it can be easy just to forget if, like many charities, your trustees and leadership team have an ambitious vision, then the pressure is on to always look forward, at the expense of reflection.

Or your charity may be characterised by a rigid hierarchy that doesn’t always encourage positive feedback to be filtered down. Because volunteers don’t get paid, you might think that we should naturally be more inclined to thank them, but it might be just as easy to take their generosity for granted, especially if they have been with you for some time. Perhaps worst of all, though, is the ill-judged thank you – too fleeting, insincere, or undeserved. At best it may fall flat; at worst it can anger and linger. So how, how often, and to whom you demonstrate gratitude should be as integral to your volunteer management strategy as their recruitment, training and retention.”

Why not get thinking about how YOU are going to celebrate your Volunteers

Why say thank you?

There are lots of tools you can use to retain your volunteers once you’ve found them and one of the best is simply saying thank you. These are probably the most important two words in any volunteer manager’s vocabulary! You should be saying thank you regularly, rather than once a year during Volunteers Week, so why not start thinking now about how you could do this more often?

Say thank you to your volunteers as they leave at the end of the session they are helping with and encourage staff who work with volunteers in your organisation to do the same. After all a thank you doesn’t cost anything and will help the volunteer feel appreciated, and know you value the time they give to help.  Some volunteers don’t like a lot of fuss and would be embarrassed, whereas others like to be the centre of attention. You know your volunteers best but if you don’t, ask the person who looks after them when they are there and see what they think. A little research really helps to make the thank you more personal and genuine.

When you read surveys of why volunteers leave, one popular reason is not feeling valued or appreciated. You can easily rectify this with two little words, so get planning and say thank you more often!

Who should say thank you?

We’ve talked about the value of showing appreciation and saying thank you to volunteers, and I think another important thing to consider is who should be saying it!  This probably seems an odd thing to say but it’s something you need to think about isn’t it?

  • The person who supervises the volunteer on their regular volunteering slots could be saying thank you at the end of the session. If you train other people in how to support and manage volunteers, it would be a good idea to include a short section on how to recognise volunteers’ contributions and the importance of those two little words!
  • You as the Volunteer Co-ordinator could be holding an event to recognise the contribution of a group of volunteers.
  • For a more formal event what about the Chair or Chief Executive saying thank you? This would add a certain formality to a gathering, but would also hopefully make the volunteer feel important.
  • If you are holding a formal event, you could have a V.I.P. taking on the role – maybe a local MP, the Mayor or some local dignitary who supports your project. In Dudley borough, the Mayor takes on the Volunteering Champion role each year as part of their duties and is usually delighted to support and events involving volunteers.
  • If the person speaking at an event isn’t you or the person who supervises the volunteers, make sure you give them some background information about what the volunteers do, not just a list of names. This will help to make the whole thing more personal.

Just remember!

Try to tailor the way you say thank you to the volunteer[s]. If they don’t like a fuss, don’t arrange a formal red carpet event or they may well not turn up! You may have to downscale it to coffee and cake to make them feel more comfortable!

How to value volunteers

When you are planning how to recognise and celebrate your volunteers you may have a number of things to consider:

  • How many volunteers you have
  • When you need to hold the event to ensure as many as possible can attend – there’s no point choosing a Wednesday evening if half the volunteers are at their Zumba class! Checking availability is a sensible step.
  • Is it an informal gathering or a more formal occasion?
  • Where you will be holding it? Don’t just think about the geographical location, but also about things like parking, access for those who may be less mobile and how big a venue you need.
  • Who to invite – if you need someone key to attend such as your Chair, Chief Exec, the Mayor or a local MP, you may need to work the event around their availability.
  • Plan a programme for the event – a rough plan of who’s doing what and when is always reassuring and if it’s a more formal event, you may wish to have a printed programme for guests.
  • Budget – this is probably the most important thing to consider! If you are a small organisation and don’t have a budget for volunteer recognition and celebration, this may restrict your plans a little. You can do a great event on a shoestring, if you can find a free venue, free certificates from your local Volunteer Centre [we produce them every year for our local groups], get people to bring a contribution towards refreshments/buffet etc.

Just remember!

It’s quality that’s important and a genuine wish to make volunteers feel valued.

How to tell the world [well at least the local area how much you value your volunteers?]

 There are lots of ways you can do this and most of them are free!

  • Newsletters – have you got an organisational newsletter? This is a great place to tell other staff, volunteers and clients, just how wonderful your volunteers are. Add a photo and you are onto a winner!
  • Website/Blog/Twitter/Facebook/other social media – a popular way to share what you think of your volunteers with the world [literally via the World Wide Web] is via your website or social media streams. A winsome photo is a sure fire way to get your good news shared. When I published the photos from Dudley Volunteer Awards in October 2017, I had over 6000 views of the photos in 48 hours on the dva17.wordpress.com blog! If you aren’t au-fait with social media, why not attend a free local ‘Write here, write now’ session run by friendly staff from Dudley CVS, who will be able to support you to tell your story and get to grips with a variety of media platforms.
  • Local media – newspapers, radio and TV – are a great way to show your pride in your volunteer[s]. Don’t forget to tell them why your volunteer[s] deserve recognition and hopefully this will also help raise the profile of your project or organisation. Black Country Radio is a local community radio station and always looking for guests for their shows, so why not get in touch?
  • Awards – Dudley Volunteer Awards are an annual event held alongside Dudley CVS’s Annual General Meeting. Local volunteers [both individuals and groups] can be nominated and recognised at this high profile celebration. The winners are chosen by a panel made up of the Mayor, local decision makers, voluntary sector reps and our Chairman. Nominations for Dudley Volunteer Awards open in June each year and everyone nominated for the awards is invited along to the Dudley Volunteer Awards celebration in October. You can nominate now by visiting this year’s Awards blog https://dva2018.wordpress.com/ and clicking on the Nominate There are also the Mayor’s Civic Awards, which are another annual award scheme.
  • Queens Award – if you want to nominate a group of volunteers, why not consider this award? It’s a prestigious award and equivalent to an MBE for voluntary groups and charities. You can find out more by visiting the Queens Award website or by contacting Eileen at Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk

Having a Blast! Making an Impact!

As the Children, Young People and Families in Communities team enters its sixth month together we are taking the time to celebrate the progress we have made during this time. It’s been a blast and we are loving every minute, we wanted to share some of our highlights and achievements with you!

What an honour!
The team attended Dudley’s Centre for Professional Practice’s staff recognition awards at Himley Hall. It was a wonderful event which celebrated the achievements of staff and recognised those that go the extra mile. CYIC award
What was really special and humbling was that the Centre for Professional Practice gave an award to recognise people who work with children and young people in the community and…WE WON!!!!! It was really an honour to be recognised by partners and the award takes pride of place on the fireplace in our office at Dudley CVS. Read more about the award on our blog: https://dudleycypfnetwork.net/2018/02/05/what-an-honour/

Spill your beans over coffee and cake

Smile change
Dudley Parent Carer Forum has been getting out and about in a bid to meet new parent carers and share the great work they have been involved in. The Forum is an independent organisation that is facilitated and supported by the team at Dudley CVS.

Members work together to ensure that the voices of parent carers are heard.
We now have termly carer’s coffee morning slots run by parent carers which we support at Penn’s Meadow & Old Park Special School and we are delighted to be invited to join The Sutton Schools parent’s forum. We hope to ensure that everyone in Dudley borough knows about the forum and all parent carers know that information, support and an opportunity to have their say is available.

We are also working hard to ensure that professionals know that we are here and we now have a professional e-bulletin distribution list that sends information to over 103 professionals including those within Dudley CCG, Local Authority, Schools, Colleges and Voluntary Sector organisations, which has been really well received.

“What a fabulous, uplifting email! Thanks so much for passing this on, it really shows how well things are working and I really value the hard work that people are putting in, to help and support others.” Councillor Anne Millward – Lead Cabinet Member for Children’s Services

For more information about the Dudley Parent Carer Forum or to get in touch visit https://dudleyparentcarerforum.com/

Young people take up the challenge!Morgan take over

The Takeover Challenge puts children and young people into decision-making positions and encourages organisations to hear their views. In Dudley borough we are committed to building an infrastructure for all young people to have opportunities to participate, share their views and influence decisions that affect their lives regardless of their backgrounds, experiences or abilities.

During November and December 2017 the number of organisations involved and the number of opportunities offered increased by 400%, thanks to the 36 professionals who agreed to be taken over! A variety of CVS staff got involved including the Chief Officer Andy Gray who supported Molly to take over the Children’s Alliance Board meeting.

Partners from Dudley MBC, Dudley CCG, West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, political figures, Members of Parliament, schools, colleges and Lunch on the Run all provided a variety of opportunities for young people to get involved and takeover.

Over 5lunch on the run takeover0 young people between the age of 13-19 from a third of secondary schools across the borough, three colleges and a university student participated. Young people with different backgrounds and abilities took part, including young people involved in Dudley Care Council, Dudley Youth Council, Care Leavers Forum, Young Health Champions and Police Week Students. Children looked after, young people with disabilities and additional needs and mental health illnesses participated fully.

pc paul takeoverIt was incredible to see the young people in our borough being given the opportunity to shine, even though a few did say that they were exhausted by the world of work and left with a headache at the end of the day! We asked people what they enjoyed most about the Takeover Challenge. Professionals enjoyed being able to offer opportunities for young people, hearing about the excellent things young people are involved in and the difference they are making, giving young people a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity such as being Mayor for a day, and learning directly from young people. Young people enjoyed learning about different roles, meeting different people and how welcoming the professionals were.

A massive thanks to all those professionals and young people that made it happen. We can’t wait to do it all again bigger and better in November 2018!

We are sure you will agree that we have been keeping busy, staying out of trouble, getting involved in lots of exciting projects and working with some incredible people. We are so proud of the work we do and that it plays a part in improving the lives of the children, young people and their families.

Restoration of Riverside House: Engaging people in practical activities

Last December, we visited Lloyd Stacey, founder and director of Riverside House, at the beautiful historic site and former early 19th Century ironworks, to meet some of the wonderful people who are transforming the derelict site for the benefit of the community.

As we made our way through the wilderness of woodland located between the Stourbridge canal and the River Stour, we found the team busily clearing rubbish, cutting back the overgrown brash, chopping wood and burning the dead wood over a crackling campfire.

Riverside House has fascinating heritage, history, geology and wildlife. The space includes woodland, a grade II listed house and workshops, a walled garden, a dry dock and narrow boat basin. Lloyd and his team are working to expose the heritage features through clearing the overgrowth, cleaning graffiti and restoring brickwork.

Over the next few years, Riverside House will be renovated and transformed into a heritage centre with gardens, restaurant, crafts shop, woodland and workshops. The idea is to create a place where people can learn and develop skills by transforming the site, in a social environment.

The project aims to help young unemployed adults and young people to participate in practical activities and learn traditional crafts, gardening and hospitality through their involvement of the conservation, preservation and restoration of Riverside House. The joy of learning practical skills have proven to provide outcomes such as improvements in well-being, confidence, self-esteem, social inclusivity, relationship building and physical health. As the project develops there will be more and more opportunities, the idea is to get the whole community using this space, take part in creative art projects and bring back traditional skills such as blacksmithing.

After a quick tour of the site, it was time for tea and biscuits around the campfire, a welcome reward for the team after a couple of hours of hard work! Sitting on handmade benches made from tree stumps, having a chat and a chuckle around the fire with a warm cuppa in hand… it was easy to see why people felt so happy and comfortable here.

We were introduced to Helen Garbett of Artworks for Change, an artist, who has been involved in Riverside House through social art projects, exploring place, natural and cultural landscape, heritage and social change through contemporary art. Helen runs participatory workshops and projects for individuals, organisations and communities that wish to engage in exploratory, creative activities, focusing particularly on those with a disability, caring responsibilities or health conditions.

Helen introduced us to her son Callum, an enthusiastic volunteer at Riverside House who was one of the first to join Lloyd at the beginning of the project, she said,

“When Callum left college, we were looking for things he was interested in doing. One thing that seemed to emerge over time is Callum’s interest in local history and horticulture, so when I got to hear about Lloyd and what he was doing down at Riverside House it just seemed ideal. He now goes 3 days a week and he absolutely loves it, he is so enthusiastic and never misses a day. They have a really tight group.

With autism, social interaction has always been difficult for Callum. Now, he’s having good conversations and feels relaxed with everyone, all of these social things I wasn’t expecting to come out of it has really benefited him. He now feels like he is part of a little community. He has taken ownership, Riverside House to him… well, he feels part of it, and it isn’t just a place that he goes to, he feels like it’s ‘his’ place.”

People from all walks of life have been attracted to the historical site, including historians and archaeologists, volunteers, including a retired builder, a former teacher and many young people with enthusiasm for horticulture, metalwork and woodwork. All sharing their expertise and knowledge.

John, a retired teacher from Stourbridge College, has lived in the area most of his life, walked past the site quite often and didn’t even know it existed until he was alerted to the Riverside project by a friend. He now volunteers 3 days a week and is interested to learn more about the historical importance of the site from the Dudley archives, and share his findings with others.

The former ironworks once consisted of forges, fineries, rolling-mills and foundries which transformed pig iron into casted and wrought iron products. Wrought iron was, at that time, the most widely used form of iron product.

Metal enthusiast, Tom, wearing a safety helmet (one of many from his collection!) has collected all kind of old metals from the site, which we hear he proudly displays in his bedroom!

Whilst we were keeping warm around the campfire, a small piece of scrap metal was found in the overgrowth, one volunteer heated it up, hammered it,  formed it into a small loop and cooled it down in a little pile of snow. You could already see the interest and enthusiasm for blacksmithing!

Riverside House has also adopted the towpath from Canal & River Trust and will be renovating this historically significant section of the canal which includes the entrances to the dry dock, canal basins and crane base.

Riverside has now become a CIC, achieved successful fundraising and has been networking and making connections which have resulted in referrals to other professionals. Dudley CVS supported Riverside House on formation of CIC and charity, writing charitable objectives, business planning advice, fundraising, general advice on recruitment, trustee appointments and volunteer work.

It will be fantastic to see the former ironworks site turn in to a waterside community attraction with café and shop selling local crafts and produce. The journey and all the things that will be learnt along the way will prove the most exciting part!

Read more about Riverside House at www.riverside-house.org.uk

If you would like more information or support for your group please contact Becky Pickin at smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk

The story of one Young Health Champion.

The Dudley Young Health Champions Project went live in September 2016. The project is funded by Dudley CCG and Dudley Office for Public Health, based within Healthwatch Dudley and hosted by Dudley CVS. The project aims to provide youth-led and creative opportunities for young people aged 11-25 to become Young Health Champions and get involved in a variety of health based projects and activities. The aim is to increase young people’s resilience and give greater access to accurate and young person focused information on health related matters. To date the project has a network of over 85 Young Health Champions who are involved in a variety of schools, colleges and voluntary sector services.  Projects range from group activities to one off campaigns, fundraising and awareness raising. The project provides a bridge between young people and decision makers so that young people have the opportunity to have their voices heard and influence future services. A large part of the project focuses around the increasing challenges to mental health that young people experience. The project has a regular volunteer Becky who whilst developing her own projects manages the DYHC blog and Twitter page -Faye Hall (Dudley Young Health Champion’s Project Coordinator.)

I’m Becky, I’m a 19 year old girl and before volunteering with DYHC, I had completed a 3 month course with The Princes Trust and was then referred to the project through Just Straight Talk to help build and develop my confidence after struggling with severe mental health difficulties for 7/8 years of my life which affected aspects of my life including my education. Due to facing constant battles in my day to day life I find communicating with other people and having the confidence to do ‘simple’ things incredibly difficult. I have been involved with Dudley Young Health Champions since May/June 2017 and volunteer 2-3 days per week. As Faye said above, I administrate the project blog and twitter page and help lead and plan youth led projects. In November/ December I organised a Christmas collection for the homeless to support Vi Wood from Leslie’s Care Packages and we had an amazing outcome and are now collecting baby essentials for mums and mums to be as part of Vi’s next project. I have held 2 bake sales in order to raise money for YoungMinds Charity and have also helped run Get Cooking sessions over the summer of 2017. I have attended various high level meetings with professionals including the Children’s Safeguarding board as well as completing many different training sessions such as Thrive and ASIST (led by Papyrus). I have been part of the Children’s Alliance Strategy and the Suicide Prevention Strategy. Myself and Faye were invited to the ITV Studios in London with the Fixers organisation to join a campaign on ‘Fixing My Anxiety’ and took part in the Neon Run for Mary Stevens Hospice along with HealthWatch staff.

I have been working on an arts- based project with Faye where I have created 11 paintings that each portray different emotions and feelings a person with a mental illness may experience and that I have experienced myself throughout my battle. Feelings such as anxiety, depression, isolation and shame, each paining is being turned into a post card and have a descriptive narrative on the reverse as well as ways to manage and a positive affirmation. Once I had completed the paintings, myself and Faye started to work with the Fixers organisation who are helping me create a 2-3 minute video where my artwork will be displayed on a backdrop, an actress will be acting out different movements and a dialogue will be played. Once the pack is all put together, we will be holding a launch in March time and the pack will be distributed amongst services such as CAMHS, GP surgeries, schools and youth based organisations.

Along with another Young Health Champion, I was awarded with the Ray McGuirk Young Volunteer of the Year at the DVA’s 2017. I have been given so many opportunities since being a part of the project and there are a lot more ahead of me!

 

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How many expectations? or 7 years of Social Media Surgeries in Dudley Borough (part one)

There have been social media surgeries in Dudley for more than 7 years.

Since Melissa Guest organised the first on Dec 8th 2010 a varied group of volunteers have run 65 different events in Dudley, Halesowen, Stourbridge and Brierley Hill.  We really didn’t expect this, in fact we expected pretty much nil, nada.

327 of you have signed up for some sort of help,  and we’ve recorded 45 website and social media sites we’ve helped you set up and run. (although we reckon it’s much more than that).A network of committed people have run social media surgeries in Dudley, Stourbridge, Halesowen and Brierley Hill. We even made the news.

Life is likea cup of tea. (2)

These posts are a chance to look at three things…

  1. What is a surgery and how does it fit in with other support for community groups in Dudley and..
  2. What you make of the format – the way of working
  3. What some of you have gone on to do, resting on the skills and confidence you’ve picked up through the surgeries

So lets start with the first…..

Alison Mel and Becky at a social media surgery in Dudley

Alison Mel and Becky at a social media surgery in Dudley

What are they?

A social media surgery is deliberately informal.

  • It’s a place and a time where people with some experience of using social media can sit alongside local community groups, volunteers and charities and help them make better use of the web.  These places are deliberately relaxed, typically a cafe, where you can talk and think and explore and learn together, and say thank you by buying the person who helped you a quick cuppa.
  • It’s the opposite of training.  You don’t get lectured at. Instead someone will ask you what you are trying to achieve, listen to how you already use the internet and offer suggestions.  If something appeals to you you can dig deeper, together. And it is practical. People will help you set things up, there and then, wwhether on facebook, twitter, a new website.
  • A social media surgery is a loop of generosity.  The surgeries are much more than an expert volunteer surgeon supporting a local community group. They  recognise that helping each other can be far more rewarding than passively receiving help. Whether you think you’ve come to learn or to teach everyone tends to end up sharing what they know with each other.   This is a intentioanl, it’s the loop of generosity.
  • They shrug off key performance indicators and unrealistic aspirations.  Surgeries are run with zero expectations.  They are built on a principle that expectations often lead to disappointment.  If you think 20 people ought to come, but ‘only’ 10 do then you end up demoralised. You may even give up.  Zero expectations means that even if one person is helped that’s a win, 10 turning up is a spirit-lifting-humdinger-of-a-fantastic-thing.  By taking this approach they are more fun to do, so more likely to be there, so better able to help.
  • A social media surgery is a platform.  By providing a space for people to share skills the surgeries underpin so much other work. They help boost the flow of civic information within a neighbourhood and across the internet.  This can be about local services, activities, events, campaigns. It can be information from the third sector or the public sector. It can also be the possibilities tied up in relationships people nurture through being able to share and support each other online.  It can also be the unexpected happenings that spring up because people get to be in the same space and learn together.    All this nurtures connections and grows the civic conversation online.  Upon those connections and those conversations can rest a more vibrant, richer place to live.

The surgeries are run by a group of committed people, some may happen to work for the CVS, but the surgeries sit in a wider movement of people who simply want to share digital skills, for free, with local active citizens.

For your next social media surgery please look at www.socialmediasurgery.com. 

 

 

Building kinder communities in Netherton

I’m really pleased that one of the small charities that Dudley CVS has supported has been awarded funding from one of Dudley Council’s Community Forums (Netherton, Woodside and St. Andrews and Quarry Bank and Dudley Wood Community Forum) to set up a pilot project to help people build important social connections where they live.

Members of Netherton Regeneration Group, which we supported to gain charity status, had this to say about their plans:

Netherton Regeneration Group is setting up a pilot in the Darby End area to train volunteers to help lonely people to get out and about. We are setting up a network of street champions and lots of interesting and healthy activities open to all comers. We want to help people who are not able to get out easily, have lost touch with friends, need something to get them moving, get help with health problems, find out about healthy foods and exercise, but mainly to have some fun!

We have been awarded £2,300 from the Community Forum and hope to win some more funds through DMBC’s Innovation Fund for the Voluntary Sector.

Our idea is simple!

We will create a regular support group, to help people become more active and less isolated. People will be offered lots of fun activities including:

  • cooking food together
  • having a cup of tea and a chat
  • making new friends
  • learning to grow plants and vegetables
  • cooking easy, healthy meals and sharing them
  • taking part in healthy walks
  • arts and crafts activities
  • playing games and having a good time!
  • practical community work to make Netherton a better place to live and work
  • setting up a patients’ garden in the Health Centre courtyard over the next year! Instead of looking at weeds, we will be able to see fresh flowers and herbs that we have grown!! Funds are being provided from the Health Centre’s Patient Participation Group Purse to set up the garden.

Volunteers are needed now!

We will be training ten volunteers to help us run the programme and they will get free First Aid and Food Hygiene courses provided.

If you’re interested in helping to make any of this happen, please contact us using our Facebook page and letting us know what kinds of things you’d like to help with.

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A couple of local volunteers working with our Trustee, Chris, to tidy up Joe Darby’s statue in Netherton Centre last summer.

There’s been a marked increase recently in conversations around social connectedness and how that builds individual and communal resilience, combating loneliness and isolation. At national level the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and its #Happytochat campaign, research done by Carnegie Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the place of kindness in communities and yesterday’s creation of a ministerial post on loneliness all point to a rising understanding that belonging and social connectedness are crucial for health, wellbeing and prosperity. The Chief Executive of NCVO (National Council of Voluntary Organisations), Sir Stuart Ethertington has also made a strong statement of our sector’s central role in building a sense of belonging and connectedness.

More locally, these messages have been repeated:

I’m really pleased that Netherton Regeneration Group is thinking about how its members can help people to get involved with building kinder communities and I like that there are lots of different opportunities to participate.

I’m sure there are lots of other ways people are building links with each other across Dudley borough, whether that’s on an individual level or through a group or charity. If you’re inspired to get involved, get in touch with Netherton Regeneration Group through its Facebook page or get in touch with us if you want to be linked to people doing good things somewhere else in Dudley borough.