Grace Community Church: Working together to build a vibrant new community space for local people in Pensnett

Grace Community Church, based in Pensnett, is a passionate congregation of people, committed to making their local area a better place to live by responding to the changing needs of the community around them. As a community, they have pulled together using their individual skills and connections to build a vibrant new community space that will become a place where local people can come together, learn new things, and get support.

I recently visited Nigel Rowe, Pastor at Grace Community Church, at their new community building to find out more about their recent asset transfer success and future plans for the building and the local community.

It was in early 2018 when Nigel approached Dudley CVS looking for a community space in the Pensnett area to use as a base for their group’s activities. After an initial discussion about potential buildings they could rent in the area, Becky, Dudley CVS Small Groups Officer, suggested community asset transfer as an option to consider and pointed in the direction of Dudley Council to find out more about potential buildings available in the area.

After a short period of looking around, Nigel found a local building that wasn’t being fully utilized. It had previously been used for a senior citizens club, which only met once or twice a week for bingo. The space had the potential to offer lots more. After expressing an interest in the building, they put together a business plan and worked with Dudley Council to start the asset transfer process. They received the keys in October last year.

Community asset transfer involves the transfer of responsibility for buildings or land from the local authority to a voluntary or community organisation. It presents opportunities to ensure that facilities can continue to be available locally for social, community and public use. The process starts with an expression of interest, followed by a business plan to show community support for the transfer, the kinds of activities that would take place in the building that would benefit the community, and financial sustainability.

Although they found the asset transfer a lengthy process, it gave them some extra time to raise the funds to renovate the building. Roughly £25,000 has been spent on the renovations so far. The Ibstock Enovert Trust, an environmental body that supports community and environmental projects, awarded £15,000 for the project, and the church’s congregation worked hard to raise the rest of the money.

When I visited Nigel at the building, I was amazed to find wonderfully welcoming, bright and spacious rooms, beautifully decorated with modern fixtures and fittings, a vast improvement from the old photos I’d seen of the building. Although not entirely finished, it’s very nearly there, even as I arrived there was somebody busily painting away!

Nigel told me about the incredible support from the local community, how everybody pulled together to make this project happen, not only the congregation but also local businesses that had donated fittings, materials and equipment.

Tiles were donated by a local business doing a renovation job in the area. Electricians, Sunny Electrical, and local plumbing company Gill Mechanical Service offered their skills at a reduced rate. Will Hire from Lye hired out scaffolding and core drills free of charge. Howdens donated a fitted kitchen after hearing about their various food-related projects for local people, including hampers during the winter, and ‘Make Lunch’, providing free school meals to young people and children during the school holidays.

It’s unbelievable to see old photos of how the building looked before the renovation work began:

And today, the incredible transformation – a bright and modern space!

And, the congregation are not just a vibrant and friendly bunch, they themselves are also very ‘handy’ with skills in decorating, painting, plastering and building work. Locally, Grace Community Church has taken on gardening and DIY projects for elderly people that can’t get out of the house, or for people that might be struggling for other reasons. Nigel told me, “It’s surprising how much you need for a renovation project like this that you don’t realise. We’re already using a lot of these skills out in the community, and we’re now using them to complete this project so that we can bring the community in. Local people and businesses just wanted to help because they had heard about all the good things we were planning to do with the space.”

All Nations Church Wolverhampton, their parent church, has also helped and supported the work in the area.

The building is now equipped with everything that is needed for a fully functioning community space. It has a large bright main room for events, a brand new modern kitchen space, toilet facilities and a day/activities room for toddler groups.

The vision for what takes place in the building has been built around what they have learnt from the changing needs of the community around them. They will start with a toddler group to support isolated parents in the area, as since the closure of the local children’s centre there hasn’t been a great provision for parents. Their aim is to ensure that people can drop in at any time, and there will always be someone available in the building to support parents. Nigel added, “It will be a place where answers can be found. We don’t have all the answers, but we can work together to find them”. The Toddler Group meets every Tuesday morning from 9:30am until 11am.

Nigel is also a Chaplain at Crestwood School, offering extra support for young people during lunchtime. This helps them to understand the needs of young people in the area.

The space will be used to run activities with young families, to start youth groups, art clubs, coffee mornings, and in the future, they hope to put on parenting classes, and workshops to support people with managing their finances. There will be summer school meals in the new kitchen and big events during the summer and Christmas time. Currently, they run a music workshop on a Wednesday evening and are looking to expand. People of all ages are welcome to come and use the equipment. They also plan to link up with the local food bank and potentially use the building as a distribution point.

Their aim is to build up better relationships with local people through running groups, classes and events. It’s also about connecting people socially by offering a safe place to meet to get to know other people, with a hope that new friendship groups will blossom.

Nigel tells me, “Isolation affects people of all ages. There is nowhere local to just sit down and have a coffee. We want to have drop-ins so that people can come in and have a friendly face to share a hot drink and a cake with.” Exciting future plans include potentially opening a coffee shop in the building to provide people with a place to meet and do things, also giving local people job opportunities.

Grace Community Church is now focused on getting over the starting line so they can bring exciting new projects and activities to the community. It’s wonderful to see such a transformation, providing the Pensnett community with a place to be for many years to come. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Grace Toddler Group meets every Tuesday morning from 9:30am until 11am. There is also a meeting every Sunday morning from 10:30am for an open and friendly church service with children’s activities and refreshments at the end. All are welcome.

If you would like to find out more about the project contact gracechurch@allnations.org.uk

 

‘Fed up with looking at four walls? Then come and look at ours instead!’ – Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group

Based at the Meadow Road Youth Centre, the Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group, in Dudley, is a group for older people who are interested in woodwork.  It’s a fun and friendly environment offering older people a place to learn new or develop existing woodworking skills. It’s also a great place to find new friendships. The group has 23 members in total. Some members live on their own, some are widowers, some just like to get out of the house, make something and put their skills to good use! The oldest member, Ken, is 93 years old.

‘Fed up with looking at four walls? Then come and look at ours instead!’  That’s the motto of the Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group.

The wood workshop is fully equipped with modern tools and machinery. There really isn’t much that the group hasn’t made, and they’re always on the lookout for new projects to keep them occupied. They’ve kindly created cosy homes for many of the animals at Dudley Zoo, a castle hideout for the zoo’s female guinea pigs, a hotel for rabbits, bird, bat and red panda boxes. They’ve even built penguin boxes – they tell me that they have successfully bred since, so must have done a good job making them feel at home!

Members have also kindly given their time and skills to build a variety of bird habitats for the Midland Metro Alliance which will be installed along the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill route for the Midland Metro. It’s hoped that the bird boxes will attract a wide range of nesting birds.

They’ve built a bench for Acorns Children’s Hospice, nest boxes for local schools and they’re now looking to build Pine Marten boxes for an RSPB site in Shropshire.

The group acquire offcuts of wood donated by local businesses which enables them to build all of the items, these materials would otherwise have gone to landfill. They have even rescued supermarket trolleys from the canal and used the wheels to make wood replenishing trolleys that fit snuggly under the workbenches.

Steve is one of the youngest members of the group, he joined when he was 63 and mainly makes things for the family like shelving and benches. He tells me that people like to come to the workshop because they enjoy the camaraderie and they like to have a good laugh. A couple of members don’t look forward to the Christmas holidays as it just imposes on them coming to the workshop! They’ll open up again as soon as Boxing Day arrives, as long as there are two people in the workshop, for health and safety reasons, they will happily come in over Christmas!

Steve contacted Dudley CVS to get support to apply for a Dudley Community Forum Grant of £550. The application was successful, helping them to purchase sanding disks, belts, saw blades, machine saws and new router bits. They’ve also received £900 from Age UK, which they have used to buy a new router machine.

Dave is one of the founding members of the group, he’s made things including rocking horses and dolls houses. It usually takes him about 3 months to make a rocking horse which is made in blocks, glued together and then carved and painted. He’s also carved a shark out of wood, which sits on his fireplace at home.

Chairman Mick, is highly skilled on the woodturning lathes, he’s made fruit bowls and pens. He’s even made a beautifully carved walking stick.

Dave and Derek have a background in upholstery. Derek recently made an intricate money box. He enjoys coming to the workshop, but doesn’t like Thursdays much, as that’s when the workshop closes for the weekend!

Ken, the oldest member, is making clocks for his sons out of an old sideboard that belonged to his parents.

Bruce makes detailed wooden toy trains, plains and trucks. He finds his inspiration in woodwork books.

Bill is 84, he came to the workshop when he was 70, he started out as Chairman. He likes to make clocks and other things. He remembers the days when they used to walk around timber yards asking for offcuts of wood. He said “Coming here is good, we can discuss things over lunch, at our age, we don’t see anybody, pubs are too expensive and not good for you!’

George, the treasurer, likes to make boats with sails. He keeps them in his large shed, apparently, you have to go in sideways because of the number fabulous boats, lifeboats and submarines he has made.

All members are extremely skilled and talented. Some had skills before, some hadn’t, many have learnt skills from each other. All of their items are beautifully made and finished to a high standard.

The group originally started in the early 2000s when a few people were faced with redundancy from local businesses. It was suggested they go on other courses to re-skill, one of those was a woodwork course at Dudley College. When that closed down the group moved to Mons Hill in Dudley, then amalgamated with another group from Brierley Hill, it was then that they moved to Meadow Road Youth Centre where they have been based for over a decade now. They still use the original machinery that was donated by Dudley College over a decade ago.

The group has recently become a member of UK Men’s Sheds Association. Men’s Sheds provides support and guidance to individuals and groups across the UK, raising awareness of the social and health benefits of Men’s Sheds in reducing isolation, loneliness and in empowering local communities. Men’s Sheds supports individual groups to connect with new members of the community. They also provide advice and guidance on starting up and running a shed providing practical information guides, example documents and toolkits on topics such as registering as a charity, insurance, funding, sourcing equipment and venues, and volunteer recruitment.

To anyone who might be interested to join, they would say, “Come in, do your own thing, we’ve got heating, toilets and cups of tea to keep us nice and warm! What more could you want?”

To find out more about the group visit https://bit.ly/2WxNlHd

Discover U – Providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities

Based in Wollaston, Discover U is a vibrant and welcoming space providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities. Discover U is not a daycare centre, it’s a charity working to support people who face barriers when getting into employment. It’s an environment where people can prosper and grow, fulfil their goals and reach their potential, a place to learn social, emotional, functional and employability skills. The people that go there are supported by volunteers to set their own goals and are helped to achieve them.

Discover U has a well-equipped wood workshop, garden area, front tea room and upstairs sewing room, most of which are busy every day. With materials donated by local businesses, they are able to turn unwanted pieces of wood, fabrics and bottles (some of which donated by the Brierley Hill Civic) into beautifully handcrafted and saleable items. They even have donations of fruit from people in the local community which they use to make cakes for the tea room. It’s now a community hub where local people can pop in for a hot drink, a cake, and look at all the wonderful items for sale.

You only have to look around the workshop to see the passion to learn, the creativity, the enjoyment and sense of pride in the products they have made. Everywhere you look there are beautifully made high-quality products, Bee Hotels, bird boxes, bottle lights, knitted tea cosies, cushions, chairs, you name it…they have probably made it! They even made our wooden awards for the Dudley CVS Volunteer Awards last year.

It’s a wonderful hive of activity. Lorna is busy drawing up ideas for her next recycled bottle project; she shows us her sketchbook full of ideas and designs. James has invested his time learning about safeguarding and what you need to do to keep people safe. Thanks to James, Discover U is now recognised as a Safe Place to visit in Dudley. Kieran is busy tidying up the cabin shop showing us the variety of products for sale. Darren tells us how he wants to work as a painter and decorator having learnt painting skills in the workshop.

Discover U members come from a variety of backgrounds, together they are building a vibrant, fun and pleasant working environment.

Everybody plays an important part, whether it’s in the design of a new concept, the manufacturer or the sale of a product at the end. Everybody’s involved in the process right from the very start and they take pride in what they’re doing.

In the workshop, they are supervised and learn how to use power tools. When they have passed their food hygiene course they can then work in the kitchen and serve customers. Operating the till helps them to learn about money management, it also helps them to improve their social skills by interacting with customers.

Steve Smith, one of the founders of Discover U, tells us of how for so long they have been told ‘you can’t do it because…’, at Discover U, volunteers will support people to do tasks on their own, build their confidence and tell them ‘you can do it!’

We hope you enjoy this short film we have made to spotlight this amazing group in Dudley.

If you would like to find out more about Discover U, visit their website www.discoveru2015.org or Facebook page. Or why not pay them a visit? They are open Mon-Thu from 9.30 until 4, they also have a stall at Kingswinford market on most Saturdays during the warmer months.

 

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

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

Thirty years supporting people who have suffered a stroke and their families

Anne Adams, Dudley CVS Trustee, has been supporting people who have suffered a stroke and their families for more than thirty years and is now up for an award for her lifelong dedication to helping others.

After forming Dudley Stroke Association in 1987, Anne still devotes many hours of her time to the organisation, supporting people who have been affected by strokes throughout their journey to better health.

Through the organisation, Anne also coordinates evening events, coffee mornings, day trips and lunch clubs for people who have been through a stroke. Anne said:

“Our motto ever since we started in 1987 is ‘there is life after stroke’ because people who have been through it feel so isolated and alone before they realise support is out there.”

In 1977, Anne worked as a speech therapist with people affected by stroke. In those early days, Anne was convinced more could be done to help both the person suffering a stroke and their loved ones. In 1982, Anne formed the Dudley Stroke Club to provide opportunities to share experiences and organise social events. But specific information about how to help people post-stroke was very limited.

In 1987, a stroke victim, Jeanne Hignett, encouraged Anne to create Dudley Stroke Association.

Between 1987 and 2007 Anne wore two hats, by day a professional speech therapist and at other times a volunteer champion of the work of Dudley Stroke Association and people affected by stroke.

Anne retired from paid work in 2007, but continued to give her time volunteering with the Dudley Stroke Association.

About her 25 years as a Dudley CVS Board Member, Anne said, “Dudley Stroke Association is indebted to Dudley CVS for the help and support we have received over many years, particularly when we were applying for Charity status. Dudley Stroke association would not be where it is today without Dudley CVS. I feel privileged to be a Board Member.”

Today, Anne has been nominated for volunteer of the year at the Great Big Thank You Awards.

Anne said: “If I won the Volunteer of the Year Award, it would really be for everyone who has helped make the group what it is today. It would be for all the people who have worked so hard to overcome their obstacles. For all those people who have tried so hard to get their lives back on track after going through such a difficult time.”

Each day, until November 18th special vote tokens will be published in the Express & Star to collect. For more information on how to vote for Anne visit: http://www.starthankyou.expressandstar.co.uk/

Stourbridge hairdresser championed as a safe place for parents to bring their children with special educational needs

We recently caught up with Anthony Cokeley, Interim PSIAMS manager at Dudley CVS, to talk about exciting developments of a new online resource for children with special educational needs (SEN).

Care & Share, developed by PSIAMS systems, is an online community website and platform that supports children with SEN and their families. The website houses useful information and resources whilst behind the scenes lies a bespoke system which allows families, carers and professionals to document, track and celebrate the progress of the child.

One of the great things about the website, due to officially launch this month, is how the featured information has helped people with additional needs to connect to local businesses recognised as safe places in the community.

Labichi’s, a local hairdressers in Stourbridge, has recently featured on the Care & Share website as a safe place for parents to bring their children with SEN for a comfortable haircut experience.

Manager, Ben Searley and his colleagues at Labichi’s gent’s hairdressing, situated in Market Street Stourbridge, have a ‘no rush’ attitude and do their very best to make all children and parents feel welcomed into their shop. The team recognise the importance of listening to parents to understand their child’s exact needs before beginning a haircut, Ben said

 “We understand that having a haircut can be an unpleasant experience for kids, and even more so for those with special needs. We have a wide range of kids that come in for a trim and we try to make the experience as smooth as possible. Some of the children may suffer from very short attention spans or sensitivity to the skin, which makes having a haircut very uncomfortable, or perhaps they are in a wheelchair. For those children, we want to make especially sure they feel right at home and assure them that they don’t have to worry about having their haircut. We love seeing all the kids that visit our shop and love to make sure that no matter what their disability they leave the shop feeling great without compromising on the quality of the haircut.”

Labichi’s has now been officially recognised as a safe place in the community and proudly displays a ‘Safe Place’ sticker in the shop window.

The Safe Place scheme has been developed by Dudley Voices for Choice and the sticker has become a recognisable symbol in Dudley borough to show that a place is safe for vulnerable people in the community. It means that people can expect a friendly welcome inside and people ready to assist if needed.

The shop is also now officially part of the Autism barbers assemble.

Rhys is 5 years old, he has Cerebral Palsy, Hydrocephalus, developmental delay and other additional needs. Rhys is now a regular at Labichi’s Barber and now enjoys having his haircut, but this wasn’t always the case.

Anthony, who is Rhys’s father said,

“When we first came to Labichi’s we were worried about the waiting, let alone the haircut itself. Rhys can be very impatient and very noisy if he is getting restless. Every time we went somewhere I always felt like people were constantly watching and secretly wishing we would just be quiet. The staff immediately made us feel at ease and welcomed us regardless of how much noise Rhys was making. They always make an effort to engage with him. When Rhys first sat in the chair, my concerns were that because he has a Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt in his head, and he can be quite sensitive to it and this was going to make his experience even more unpleasant, but after I explained it to the barber he took extra care with him. Rhys was also sensitive to the noise of the clippers and found it really scary. He has now got used to this and is quite happy to sit the chair.”

Ben and his team at Labichi’s are always trying to find new and inventive ways to adapt to a child’s specific needs, recently inventing an imaginary ‘fidget button’, a fun way for a child to get any fidgeting out of their system before or during a haircut, by pressing the button for a 5 minute time-out.

Mason is also 5 years old, he has a rare genetic disorder, is partially sighted with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, and Sensory Prepossessing Disorder (SPD). Mason’s mother, Charis Taylor, describes their first visit to the barber shop:

“After years of unsuccessful and traumatic experiences for us trying to get Mason’s haircut, going through the kicking, screaming and taking two of us to hold him down for a haircut, we were at the end of our tether. Labichis barbers was recommended to us, so very reluctantly, we decided to try it. We didn’t expect him to even sit in the chair, to be honest, and wasn’t very hopeful. He watched his friend have his haircut first which helped him to get his head around it, and eventually Mason sat in the chair! Yes he fidgeted, he moaned slightly and was very nervous, but he just sat and watched a cartoon on my phone the whole time while the barber worked around him patiently. The barber was very calm, didn’t force him to look up, just worked around him, explaining each step to him before cutting, and more importantly, he didn’t rush. The end results were a fantastic haircut, very proud little boy, and an exceptionally happy mummy.”

Ben and his team at Labichi’s are now looking to spread the word to parents, local autism support groups and special schools in the community to let them know that there is a safe place to bring children with additional needs. On occasion, the staff at Labichis will make out of hours appointments for parents that don’t feel comfortable to come for the first time during normal opening hours.

If you would like to get in touch with the team at Labichi’s, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Labichibarbers/

If you would like to find out more about the Care & Share project contact Anthony Cokeley at anthony@psiams.com

Nurturing caring, vibrant and caring communities – A snapshot of our story over the last year

We are really pleased to share the work that our Dudley CVS team have been doing over the past year in our most recent annual review. The 2016-17 review is a snapshot of the work we’ve done between April 2016 and March 2017 to support individuals, communities and organisations across Dudley borough.

Take a look at our annual review website and read about how we’ve been connecting and inspiring people and organisations to achieve positive change and championing their work.

Visit www.dudleycvsreview.org

Or, if you would like to read a short snapshot of our story, you can download our pdf version by clicking on the image below:

I hope you enjoy learning about the work we’ve been doing over the past year. If you’ve any feedback please feel free to leave a comment!

Be part of our collective story and share how you’ve been involved in our work or how you would like to get more involved! #dcvstory

Meet our new starters!

We are pleased to introduce our new members of staff to Dudley CVS, Sarah working with Healthwatch Dudley, Keeley and Abdullah with Integrated Plus and, Luke and Donna with the newly formed Children, Young People, Families and Communities team.

This week we met Keeley, Sarah and Luke:

Meet Keeley Waldron, Locality Link Development Officer for Integrated Plus

“My name is Keeley Waldron and I’m the new Locality Link Development Officer for Integrated Plus. I will be working in Kingswinford, Amblecote and Brierley Hill. The part of my role that I’m most looking forward to is being able to help people learn more about the support and options that are available to them in their local communities. I’m also looking forward to being able to work closely with other professionals to make sure that we’re seeing people as a whole, not just focusing on their medical needs.

I previously worked at Alzheimer’s Society. In my time there I worked as a Dementia Support Worker and a Dementia Friends Regional Officer. I’m hopeful that my knowledge of dementia and experience of supporting carer’s will prove useful in my new role. I’ve also been able to form good links with a number of voluntary organisations who I will be able to continue to refer into. It will be great now to be able to support people with a wide range of different challenges. I’m sure that I have a lot to learn but I’m raring to go and looking forward to it!

Since starting back in April this year I am now addicted to running (very slowly I must add) but I love taking part in various races and collecting the bling at the end. I have a six year old son called Ethan, who despite being too laid back does keep me busy. When I find the time I like to relax by watching TV, Game of Thrones is a firm favourite followed closely by (I need to be honest) Eastenders!”

Contact Keeley: keeley@dudleycvs.org.uk 

Meet Sarah Hill, Support Officer for Healthwatch Dudley

“Following an illness in 2015/2016, I wanted to get back into ‘the swing’ of working. So, I thought volunteering would be a good way of getting my confidence back and use to a working environment again.

I started volunteering at Dudley CVS in January 2016 assisting with admin/front of house duties and I also got involved with ‘Tea and Chat’ at Russell’s Hall Hospital.

Whilst volunteering at Dudley CVS, it was suggested that I approach White House Cancer Support in Dudley about volunteering with them, which I did and started there in April 2016 helping the Information and Support Officer at the time.

In July 2016, I gained full-time employment with White House Cancer Support as their Information and Support Officer, until May 2017 when I decided to leave. In August 2017, I joined the Healthwatch Dudley team as their Support Officer on a part-time basis.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family and socialising with my friends. I enjoy meeting people, I am outgoing, chatty and helpful.

I am a fan of Rugby and like to watch matches at Worcester Warriors and I also enjoy swimming and jogging. I love days out that usually involve a walk, picnic or pub lunch and a visit to a National Trust, where I get inspiration from to help transform our garden at home.”

Contact Sarah: sarah@healthwatchdudley.co.uk

Meet Luke Hamblett, Youth and Community Work Development Officer working with the newly formed Children, Young People, Families and Communities team

“Hi, I’m Luke, I’m 21 and I’m the new Youth and Community Work Development Officer at Dudley CVS. My role entails helping to support and establish open access youth work across the borough, as well as finding out and connecting with the already established voluntary youth work organisations that we have here across Dudley. I’m really excited to be joining the team here and look forward to working with all of the organisations and volunteers across all sectors that work with children and young people.

My background is in voluntary youth work where I worked for a local church for a number of years, whilst studying a degree in Youth Work. I have several years of experience in running and helping with youth clubs as well as small groups and one to one youth work activities.

I enjoy working with young people and am really passionate about seeing them achieve their goals and meet their full potential. It is really important for me to create authentic relationships with young people and build very honest and open relationships. Building trust whilst maintaining professional and personal boundaries has been key for my work with young people and I place a lot of importance on that principle.

In my spare time I enjoy film and media and I have experience in the graphic design and television industries where I designed for and worked alongside a local television station during my time at college. I think that by transferring those experiences to my youth work I have developed a unique view point on how marketing and visual communications can play a key part in the voluntary youth work sector.”

Contact Luke: Luke@dudleycvs.org.uk

 

 

Dudley CVS Trustee, Mary Turner, appointed Governor with The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

Mary-Turner picLast week I had the pleasure of meeting with long standing Dudley CVS trustee, Mary Turner, to talk about her new role as an appointed Governor supporting the continued development of The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust.

Appointed in February this year, Mary will provide a vital link between the Trust and the community, representing and reflecting the interests of local people to improve health services and patient experience for the future.

What will this mean for local people?

“We have greater freedom from central government control in the way we develop and deliver healthcare services. It means that the Trust can deliver services that meet the needs and priorities of the local population and ensure they are providing services local people want, in the way they wish to have them delivered.” Mary then told me quite simply, “It’s about giving local people a voice.”

I asked Mary to tell me more about what the role will entail.

“Part of my role will include gathering views from local people and groups to identify and gain an awareness of general health trends to feedback to the Trust. It will involve working closely with Healthwatch Dudley and Dudley CVS’s Carer Co-ordinator to build up knowledge of what’s happening in the community.”

Mary’s working life started in the nursing profession but the majority of her professional career has been in social work and community development. After realising that her real passion was to work with families rather than in hospitals, Mary worked for many years for children’s charity, Barnardos. During her time here, she seconded to complete social work training and went on to manage services for children and their families.

With a wealth of knowledge and experience gained over her long career in social work and community development, Mary will quite aptly sit on the Foundation Trusts ‘Experience and Engagement’ subgroup.

Although now officially retired, Mary still works in the borough in a voluntary capacity mainly with Home-Start Dudley, (an organisation supporting families with young children) which she has supported for over 20 years, also, Dudley’s adoption panel as well as being a school governor and working within Dudley CVS.

This all keeps Mary very busy, but like a super-hero, she still finds time for leisure activities and spending time with family, particularly her seven wonderful grandchildren! She tells me “No two days are the same!”

“I have lived, worked, volunteered, and raised four children in the Dudley Borough. I consider myself to have some knowledge and understanding of the needs and views of the people and their communities.”

After listening to Mary’s story I can see why she is the perfect person to represent Dudley CVS and local people as an appointed Governor with the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

If you would like more information on how to get in touch with Mary about general health trends that are affecting your community, contact Dudley CVS admin@dudleycvs.org.uk