Making magic happen!

Well what another amazing Operation Santa 2018 was!  13152 donations was our final figure for 2018.  We had more support than ever from members of the public, statutory partners and businesses, with some phenomenal donations.  Conversely, we also had more sad tales and children, and their families in crisis, than ever before – domestic abuse, burglaries, evictions, deaths, separations, parents with no money and no-one to turn to.

How did we do?

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Who did we support this year?

This year we had 51 lists of children and young people who needed our support to provide a gift when otherwise they would get nothing [average number on list was 25, although there were 89 on one list!].  These lists came from people from the voluntary, community, faith and statutory sector [this included schools, social workers, children’s centres and housing support], who support children and families in need.  We don’t deal with individuals and only take referrals through groups, as that way the group can identify those most in need.  We have had more organisations and groups than ever before through the Operation Santa Grotto this year!

In addition to that we funded 11 Christmas parties, some of which provided a full Christmas lunch and provided grotto presents for parties.

Supporters

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Our regular supporters from Kingswinford Charity Football Club – Simon, Carl, Mike, Jason, Louis and their lovely families supported us again this year:  fundraising to provide a hot Christmas lunch and party for 100 local children and their parents at DY1 Venue.  Simon works in local schools in the borough, so was able to ask them to nominate families most in need.   Abi and Stacey helped us again, as did Becky and Ben Knott who dressed up as elves.  They did a sterling job assisting Santa 3
and keeping the children amused.  Abi’s colouring corner was a huge success too, with those who didn’t want to join in the fun with Wally Wombat having a quiet time with some colouring. Wally did a wonderful job of amusing the children and the adults.

Everyone sat down to a delicious Christmas dinner, prepared once again by the lovely Donna, Dawn and Kayleigh from Lunch on the Run, who gave up their Saturday to cook and serve a piping hot lunch.

Huge thanks to Eric for stepping in to play Santa.  He did a fantastic job and the children thoroughly enjoyed chatting to him. One little boy was trying to grab an armful of presents 4
which brought home to us how little some children may get at Christmas.  Team Santa elves had wrapped lots of lovely grotto presents so everyone got an extra treat on their way out too.  Cheers to Carl too for once again providing goody bags for the parents.

It was a wonderful afternoon and everyone seemed to have fun, although we were moved to tears after discovering that one family had eaten nothing hot for two months and a second family hadn’t eaten anything for a couple of days.  However, we had food spare from lunch and two sizeable take-away bags of food were soon put together for the families, including some fresh baguettes. Turkey and stuffing sandwiches may well have been on the menu for tea that day!

The party was a roaring success as always and it’s all booked again for next year.

 

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ent with providing the party, the lovelies did a huge Smyth’s toy shop the following week, which ensured the grotto was bulging at the seams again.  They drove over to Smyth’s in Longbridge, where Shane the manager kindly offered to open an hour early so they had the shop to themselves.  Here are the boys with their huge pile of toys.

 

 

 

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Maren Lilley from Dudley MBC

Dudley MBC staff and Local Councillors

More staff and councillors than ever kindly supported us this year with a wonderful selection of toys and gifts. Here is Maren from Chief Exec’s Department who organises the council collection each year.

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Glynne after School Club

This lovely group have supported us for several years and this year was no exception with a visit to the grotto loaded with gifts. It’s wonderful that a group of local children want to make a difference to other children who may get nothing for Christmas.  This lovely photo shows Dean Goodman (Deputy Manager), Carley Jewkes-Jones (Deputy Manager), Emily Eades (Chairgirl) and Christian Allport (Chairboy)

Please click here for a full list of all our lovely supporters

Brilliant businesses bringing hope

Brett and the Blaze Angels – Our wonderful Business Ambassador and his team have, as always, gone the extra mile for Operation Santa. They generated an incredible 4946 donations and as always brokered the mystery business supporter’s donation.  This team are on a mission to make a difference and spread the word about the difference Operation Santa makes locally, and the importance of supporting the appeal.

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Our Magical supporter
 – Lee Southerton from Volks Magic and his team of amazing supporters from Santa’s a Gangster were fired up to make a huge difference this year.  Lee’s nephew Dale donated a VW Mk2 Golf Cabriolet and a prize draw was set up.

Along with fundraising at VDubz in the Valley, the Prize Draw and other lovely supporters, this year over £9000 was raised!  Lee even had a video made by the legendary Fuzz from the Car SOS TV programme encouraging everyone to support the appeal!

This phenomenal figure meant that we were able to do a huge shop for toys and gifts, which meant the grotto was piled up to the ceiling and at one point we couldn’t get in the door.  Also we were able to provide food gift cards, toys etc and emergency support to families in crisis, including one who was the victim of a burglary right before Christmas, when the thieves stole Christmas presents for 3 girls, but left the TV and electronics!  This incredible fundraising has also meant that we have a very healthy bank balance for Operation Santa 2019.

Not content with providing funds, Lee and Billy the Elf popped in regularly with piles of donations too, totalling a jaw dropping 1576 donations of toys and gifts too!

Court House Carvery – Chris, Paula and Paul who run the pub kindly donated 100 free Christmas lunches for local children. We approached two local schools and provided a coach for the Monday 17th December meal, when 50 children and their parents from Bromley Primary School enjoyed a Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings and ice cream for dessert.  Santa was there too and every child received a present.

On Wednesday 19th December the Court House hosted another lunch and 50 children and their parents from Bromley Hills Primary School enjoyed lunch, dessert and a present from Santa too.

Smyth’s Toys – Shane the Manager at the Longbridge store generously opened his store an hour early one Sunday, so Simon, Mike, Carl and Jason for Kingswinford Charity Football Club could shop in peace. He also gave them a generous discount and some free toys – what a star!

Prospect coaches – kindly provided us with a free coach for the 19th December Court House Christmas lunch, after we had to change the school attending and needed a coach at very short notice.

Merry Hill private hire – when the appeal went out for a free coach, Adam from Merry Hill Private Hire kindly offered us one too and although we did not take him up on his generous offer, we have been invited to ask again next year if we are again offered free carveries.

Geoff Hill – We sadly said goodbye to Geoff Hill this year and he was a much loved and stalwart supporter of Operation Santa for many years.  He was also a founding member of the Hope Charity that used to support the appeal.  Geoff popped into the office every year with a cheque to support the appeal.  He will be sadly missed as he was so much a part of Operation Santa, amongst all his other charity activities.

Nicklin – are one of our longest serving supporters and Harvey was on the original Hope Charity Board.  Each year staff collect for us and encourage their customers to donate too, so they always arrive with a lovely pile of gifts.

We also had a small business who had ceased trading and donated their stock to us, which was entirely toys and colouring packs.

Our mystery supporter – each year we have a sizeable donation from a large high street retailer who insists on remaining anonymous, but is brokered via Brett Harris from Blaze Hair.  This year they generously gave us around 2000 items, which have all gone to good homes.

Team Santa

As Operation Santa has grown we’ve had to grow the team too and three new elves joined our ranks in 2018.  It’s certainly a volunteer role with a difference as it’s a hectic 6 weeks of collections and deliveries of toys and gifts, sorting, counting, wrapping grotto presents, helping with toy and gift selection, plus helping at our Christmas parties, greeting guests, helping with activities, laying the room out, helping to serve lunch and clear away after, plus numerous other tasks.  I would like to record my heartfelt support to the incredible team who helped make Operation Santa so successful and supported me through an extremely stressful and emotional period.

Trev is my long-suffering husband who is conscripted each year to support Operation Santa.  He’s always spend hours of his own time, petrol and money to support me to make Operation Santa go smoothly, and reach as many children and young people as possible.

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Rose Cook Monk

Has volunteered for Operation Santa for three years and loves to make a difference. She juggles her volunteering around her existing charitable activities, most notably the Duncan Edwards Foundation, her speaking and family commitments. Rose’s comments about Operation Santa below sum up why she is so passionate about supporting #TeamSanta every year:

 

“Operation Santa for me is what Christmas is all about…..thinking of others, giving love where it is needed and sharing the true meaning of the festive period.   When you see your time and effort rewarded with hugs, smiles and tears, it is worth every second.   Operation Santa is an extension of my own family Christmas and the team behind it my extended Family”

Jayne Waltho

“Brilliantly organised operation to deal with a very large amount of donations.  Superb team, all pulling together to make it all happen and ensure that as many children as possible have some joy at Christmas time.  Very humbling, and at times some upsetting stories, but so happy to be part of the incredible “Operation Santa” and to know that I helped in making a difference!  Ready to help when it all starts again this year!!  “

Sarah Alliband

“What I liked most was knowing that my efforts are helping to make a difference to people’s lives, parents and children alike 😁”

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Steve Mukovic [aka Steve Ford]

Joined us an elf in November 2018 and spent hours in the grotto with the other elves, sorting donations and wrapping approx 650 grotto presents!  Steve was a lovely, warm-hearted man, with a wonderful sense of humour and always made you smile.  He volunteered for 35+ years on the Children’s Ward at Russell’s Hall Hospital, granting wishes to over 500 children and also volunteered for Dudley Hospital Radio and as a minibus driver for Dudley CVS when they ran their transport project.  We were sad to learn that Steve passed away between Christmas and New Year, and we will miss him dearly.

Sandra Moss

We also recruited another elf this year, especially to help us with the Court House events. The lovely Sandra [who is a friend of Brett Harris from Blaze Hair] arrived at the Court House in her elf outfit at both of our special carveries, helping to set up the room, serving lunch and helping Santa.

Feedback

It’s always good to hear that Operation Santa has made a difference and we’ve had some lovely feedback this year.

A grateful Mum

Just before Christmas we supported a single Mum Chloe who had been the victim of a burglary. Her car and all the Christmas presents for her three daughters were all stolen, whilst the family slept upstairs.  Her mum sent us a lovely thank you message:

“I cannot thank you and your team enough.  I just can’t believe how you have turned a really horrendous situation upside down. My daughter sat on the kitchen floor when Marieclare brought the presents and broke her heart. You and your team have totally restored my faith in the human race … you cannot imagine the difference this gesture will make to the girls xmas… U are truly amazing and I cannot thank you enough. What a blessed xmas Chloe will have xxxxx”

Jon Stevens – Head teacher, Bromley Hills Primary School

“Before Christmas we were given the opportunity to send a group of children, with their parents, for a Christmas lunch at the Court House Carvery in December. It was Eileen Fielding who contacted us and arranged this for us. I would like to send my appreciation and thanks, first of all to Eileen for organising this so well and then to the Court House Carvery for providing the food free of charge to families who cannot afford this normally. It was a fantastic experience for the children, who came back buzzing with excitement, and for the parents who all said how wonderful the food was and also that they were given this chance and opportunity.

Therefore, on behalf of the children and parents, I would like to say a very big thank you for providing this chance for us, it really did make a difference.”

Sarah Parkes – Brierley Hill Family Centre

“Just an email to say thank you for all of the hard work you and your team put in to support our families. Without people like you the children we work with would not have had that special gift to make their Christmas. You’re a star 🙂 “

Sutton School

“Operation Santa has given Sutton School students a magical Christmas and a huge smile on their faces”

http://www.sutton.dudley.sch.uk/blog/2018/12/21/operation-santa-iii-parenthub?fbclid=IwAR2i95PKstVENSBAP5CdS7TejM4odAauHXWXp7e7k6HpzEwDg_6xJb0LS4g

What’s next?

We are organising another fundraising event on 23rd March, so please help us spread the word and raise lots of funds for this year’s Operation Santa. We are hoping to raise £1000 to pay for hot Christmas meals for children and families across the borough, who may otherwise not get a hot meal.

A lifetime of volunteering -Steve Mukanovic [aka Steve Ford]

Steve was a volunteer for 35 years, supporting Dudley Hospital Radio and then  the Children’s Ward at Russells Hall Hospital.  He was also a volunteer for Dudley CVS for many years, driving our minibuses around the borough offering the elderly and disabled an opportunity to enjoy social activities. His warm personality and sense of humour made him very popular with his passengers, who always left the bus with a smile on their face.

In 2016 Steve Mukanovic was awarded the Children & Families Main Award at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2016, for his outstanding contribution to making children’s stays in hospital more pleasant and in recognition of making 500+ local children’s dreams come true. Everything from riding in a helicopter or a Ferrari, to meeting a celebrity or smashing gnomes!

His nominator Linda tells us just what made him so special. She said:

“He is not only an inspiration to us all but is also truly humbling. You would have to really meet him to understand his charisma and unique sense of fun, he is truly a one off and we are so proud that he chooses to help us.  It would be the best thing ever to give him some of the recognition he truly deserves especially as he is rather down awaiting further surgery.”

 Steve’s presentation photo and nomination film may be viewed by following this link

Midlands Film and Art’s Character Portraits Project 2018

In 2018 Dudley CVS were approached by Midlands Art Yard to help them identify 12 local community volunteers to take part in their Characters Portrait Project, where they would be a feature of a unique piece of artwork.

Steve’s Character Portraits Project video may be viewed here and it’s wonderful to hear him talking about his passion for volunteering and the joy he got from it.

In the video Steve shared his thoughts on volunteering:

“Volunteering has kept me active physically and mentally, and hopefully there’s 500 children from the Dudley area who had their wish come true already.

 As a volunteer of course you don’t get paid for what you do not in financial terms, but to see that smile how can you put a price on that? Then of course you’ve got the day itself when you meet up and you see them lift off in that helicopter, or set off in that car so you get another smile, and you get a smile from the family and that’s a very fulfilling it’s very rewarding.”

 

Team Santa Elf

Steve with Sarah Alliband and Jayne Waltho

In October 2018 Steve joined the volunteer elves supporting Operation Santa Dudley borough and spent 6 weeks, sorting and wrapping gifts in the grotto.  He also attended the special Christmas party on 17th December at the Court House carvery in Kingswinford along with the other elves, helping us set up the room and entertaining the 50+ children, and their parents who attended.

 

We were sorry to hear that Steve passed away in December 2018 and will be sadly missed.  There was a lovely feature in the Express & Star.

Eileen from Operation Santa said:

“Steve was just 100 per cent the nicest man. The outpouring of love for him is incredible. He was an absolute star.”

 

 

 

 

The event with the ultimate feelgood factor #dva18

18th October was our annual Dudley Volunteer Awards and as always it was a truly inspirational and emotional evening, celebrating amazing local individuals and groups of volunteers who give their time to grow communities, and support the people who live in them.

The Brierley Hill Civic and Dudley CVS staff teams spent the day preparing the Civic for the event and I think you will agree that it looked fabulous.

Brierley Hill Civic was packed with around 300 guests, including local voluntary, faith, community, statutory and private sector partners, MP’s, Deputy Lieutenants and of course the VIP’s of the evening, fabulous local volunteers and their guests.  All 80 of this year’s nominees were invited along on the evening to receive their certificates and our illustrious Awards Panel selected main awardees and highly commended awards across the nine categories.

A showcase for local talent

We are always fortunate to have talented local people performing at #dva each year and this year was no exception.  Guests enjoyed performances by three entertainers during the evening.

Dancers from Sutton School were the stars who opened the evening.

We were also treated to a stunning performance by Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Youth Group, performing songs from their recent sell-out production of ‘Grease’

Our final entertainer was Malcolm Palmer, a talented ukulele player, who started the Stourbridge branch of the George Formby Society.

 

Say ‘cheese’

We had some wonderful photos taken on the evening and were sharing the event’s highlights through our Twitter feed during the evening.  Unfortunately not everyone came to the group photo call, but I think you will agree that this lovely photo catches the spirit of the evening perfectly.  If you would like to see the photos please click here to visit our special #dva2018 blog page.

Their moment in the spotlight

Once the nominated volunteers had each received their certificate, it was time to focus on the nine different award categories and distinguished local dignitaries were invited to introduce the awards and announce the awardees.

I’ve listed all the main awardees and highly commended for each category, including links to our special blog pages, with photos, video links and copies of the nomination forms, so you can see just what makes these exceptional volunteers so inspirational.

Business Supporting the Community Award

Shaz Saleem from Express Taxis was given a highly commended award for his contributions to local communities and causes.

 

The main awardee for this category was Lee Southerton from Volks Magic in Oldbury, whose mission is to ensure th

at no local child thinks that Santa has forgotten them.  He’s fundraised and collected donations for years and this year has pulled off a small miracle!  His nephew Dale Roberts has donated a VW Mk1 Golf Cabriolet and Lee is running a prize draw at £5 a ticket to win the car and all funds raised will go to this year’s Operation Santa Dudley borough appeal.  He has alr

eady raised £3700 selling tickets are various VW events and the Just Giving page is climbing to £400!  Why not watch the video from Lee’s nominator, telling us just what makes him so special?

Community Action Award

Scott Round was the deserving main awardee and his nominator said:

“Scott is always caring and worries about other people and will always put others first, he works hard and is always a joy to see around the Coseley area, he puts a smile on people’s faces. Scott is passionate about Coseley and all its residents, I cannot think of another person like him he deserves recognition for all he does in fact he deserves a medal.”

There was a joint Highly Commended Award in this category for Jasmine Road Community Gardens and Michael Price from White House Cancer Support.

 

Healthy Communities Award

Riverside House CIC were the inspirational main awardees in this category.  Their nominator said:

“The Riverside volunteers are wonderfully inspirational! They have been supporting a growing number of young people with learning disabilities and autism over the last two years; currently they are working alongside nine young people, all of whom have complex needs, requiring understanding, patience and kill to enable their participation.”

 

Wellbeing Award

Ronnie Wheeler from the Recovery Café was granted the main award in this category. His nominator said:

“Ronnie is an inspiration partly because of the challenges he has had to overcome himself. This has also led to him being compassionate and supportive of the group that access the service. His determination, persistence and commitment has created the group. He inspires others and has built a great team of volunteers to meet the increasing need”

Lyn Head was the worthy Highly Commended recipient for supporting lonely and isolated people at the Chit Chat Club.

 

 

The Black Country Radio arts & heritage award

John Raycord from Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust was the main awardee in this category in recognition of his passion and commitment. He’s well-known by local boaters using the canal. Please do follow the link and watch the lovely nomination film, telling you all about him. 

Jo Gresswell from Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company was given a Highly Commended Award in this category and got an even bigger surprise as her group were performing their ‘Grease’ songs at the Awards.

Children, young people and families award

Caroline Smith from Dudley was granted the main award in this category.  Her nominator has done an amazing film, telling us all about what makes her so special, so please do watch it.

Emily Bills was given a Highly Commended award and runs a Special Educational Needs play group, which offers children and parents much needed support

 

Duncan Edwards Sporting Champion award

This year’s Sporting Champion was Anthony Coghlan from Dudley Water Sports Club.

He was recognised for his drive and commitment in developing the club into a true community asset for local people to get involved.

 

Ray McGuirk young volunteer of the year award

“Ray McGuirk, a proud Dudley resident, helped many in his community and particularly those less well off than himself. He was a great supporter of young people, whom he felt so often received unwarranted bad press. As a member of Dudley CVS Executive Committee for many years, it was only natural for him to ask Dudley Lions to sponsor the CVS Young Volunteer Award. This they have done for 14 years, championing the youth of today.

Sadly Ray passed away in December 2014 at the young age of 88, but his work and legacy lives on in this award. He would be immensely proud to have his name associated with the work that these outstanding young people have carried out”.

The Ray McGuirk Award for outstanding Young Volunteer of the Year is a very special award and is given to young people from across our borough, who demonstrate a commitment to making a difference in their local communities and are positive role models to other young people.

This year’s recipients were no exception and were a truly inspirational group of young role models.

The Panel could not choose between two exceptional young volunteers and made a Joint Main Award to Lauren Bollans and Skye Edwards, who are both Young Health Champions for Healthwatch Dudley.

The Panel also chose to make a joint Highly Commended award in this category to two outstanding young volunteers Chloe Sallis and Thomas Southall.   To read more about these simply exceptional young volunteers, please do follow the links to read their nominations and see the wonderful photos from the evening.

 

Gordon Lindsay Award for long service

Our most prestigious award of the evening is this award in memory of our late Chairman Gordon Lindsay, who dedicated his life to volunteering and local causes. The nominees in this category have usually volunteered for at least 25 years and this year was no exception.  Gordon Lewis took the main award for his unstinting long-term commitment to growing and developing Himley Cricket Club.

 

It was an amazing evening, but don’t just take our word for it 🙂

 

 

 

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

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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Miracles do happen

What an incredible Operation Santa we had in 2017 as it was none stop from the moment we opened up our grotto until Christmas Eve!  Piles of lovely gifts have poured through the door and this year we have reached more children, young people and families than ever; including children with additional needs, young homeless and even victims of crime. Our donations have come from kind-hearted individuals, partners and local businesses.

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster of emotions, from tears to hysterical laugher and everything in between. There have been highs as we’ve experienced people’s sheer goodwill and generosity, when ‘miracles’ have happened and lows as we’ve learnt the individual stories of those who have needed support this year.  People collecting the gifts to pass on to children, young people and their families have become emotional that through the kindness of our donors, they can spread a little festive spirit and lots of hope that people do really care when recipients feel there is nothing to look forward to.

We’ve had a couple of firsts again this year and a number of miracles, which I will thoroughly enjoy telling you all about!

Brilliant Businesses

Where would Operation Santa be without the community spirit, munificence and commitment of local businesses?

There’s Blaze Hair of course, who’ve campaigned for us every year for the past 7 year and have as always, gone the extra mile.

One new business contact was Lee Southerton from Volks Magic. Sarah Steventon from Dudley MBC FAST Team introduced him to Operation Santa and he jumped straight into supporting us, leaving a dazed and teary Eileen with £1000 in cash when they first met!  He has followed this by regular cash donations and huge drops (accompanied by Billy the Elf) of toys and gifts from his generous supporters, who have given to Lee’s Christmas campaign ‘Santa’s a Gangsta’ for 5 years.

Gary Barfoot from the Little Plumbing Company in Netherton is one of our newer supporters and this year was on a mission.  Through his business contacts and with support from his lovely wife Jane, who works at Netherbrook Primary School, he raised an incredible £850 in donations.

Nicklin are one of our longest serving business supporters, having been an integral part of the Hope Charity who used to finance Operation Santa, before it ceased in 2009.  As always they dropped off a great selection of toys to support the appeal. Here’s their comment on this year’s appeal.

“Thanking The Nicklin Team and Clients for their fantastic donations once again this year. Nicklins have been part of Operation Santa which is supported by Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre for several years and are always amazed at the wonderful response. Hopefully we will have helped put a smile on a few more faces again this year. The donations we have will be delivered by Clarks Archive Storage (who do this voluntary for us every year) to the Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre tomorrow. They will then be distributed to local families.”

 

Our Business Ambassador

Fresh from receiving their ‘Business Supporting the Community Award’ at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2017, Operation Santa’s newly appointed Business Ambassador was on a mission.  This year Brett and the Angels have generated an awe inspiring 12887 donations and pulled off several ‘miracles’:

  • Through a contact at his gym, he has organised food weekly food deliveries to the Hope Centre in Halesowen, so they can give people attending their Sunday lunches a lovely meal. The first week it was a well-known brand of ice cream amongst other things. Yum yum
  • He generated and organised a jaw-dropping 8000+ secret Santa donation of brand new clothes and toys from a business who wants to stay under the radar.

He’s also raised over £2700 through his fundraising efforts and organising the Jingle Bell Jog, when he and his angels, friends, family and Operation Santa ‘Boss’ did an eight mile walk from the salon to Caunsall in early December. walk [PIC MONTAGE]

Brett’s contacts boosted the appeal financially too, with sizeable donations from Paul Billingsley and Dean Banner.

Never one to rest on his laurels, he’s also partnered up with a domestic abuse charity going forward, with one of his stylists offering makeovers to people fleeing domestic abuse. Brett most certainly has a heart of gold.

 

Christmas Parties

This year we had our first ever sit down Christmas meal and family part, thanks to the fabulous Simon Leigh, Mike Knott and Carl Ackerman and their fundraising efforts.  They came long to DY1 Venue on 16th December with their lovely families to help us put on a very special party for families who would have little to look forward to at Christmas.  They paid for the food, a children’s entertainer and even goody bags or everyone to take away.

Donna, Dawn and Kayleigh from Lunch on the Run, a social enterprise who are based at DY1 Venue and run the café there, volunteered to give up their Saturday and slave over a hot stove, producing a delicious hot Christmas lunch.  Lots of the children and quite a few of the adults had seconds, with Donna’s buttery mashed potato being a firm favourite.

Our very own Santa PC Paul Davies also gave up his Saturday and brought along three young people to act as elves in the grotto, helping with welcome drinks, waiting on tables etc.  They were a great help.

Dudley Youth Health Champions made us Reindeer Food bags and special hot chocolate pouches to go in the goody bags.

The feedback from the children and their families was very positive, so although it was a wonderful if tiring afternoon we had so much fun that we are doing it again in 2018!

 

Our amazing supporters

We had over 100 supporters this year and there’s a list on the blog page, but there are some very special people who deserve a round of applause and to whom I would like to say a heartfelt thank you.

Louis Ackerman was this year’s Captain of Hagley Golf Club and after a pitch from his son Carl Ackerman, decided to make Operation Santa his charity of the year. We have never been anyone’s charity of the year before so this was a great honour and momentous way to start Operation Santa 2017 in the late summer.  His fundraising efforts have secured us a large donation, which will certainly boost the funds for this year’s appeal.

Simon Leigh, Carl Ackerman and Mike Knott are a group of friends from Kingswinford Charity Football Club, who have been supporting us for a couple of years now and this year did the biggest toy drop in Operation Santa history, spending an incredible £2500 at Smyths Toys. They also came up with the idea of putting on our first ever Christmas lunch and party, which all came together in less than a month, thanks to they and their families’ unstinting hard work and generosity.

Airtime are a social group for people with COPD, which is organised by the Integrated Plus Project and meet at DY1 Venue once a week.  They very kindly offered to make cards, gift tags and decorations for this year’s appeal, and are already planning what they will make this year too!

Then we have our faithful ‘regulars’ – Glynne School Club, Ice Blue and Tim & Tina Pace, who come back every year laden with gifts and boundless goodwill.

We also had our youngest ever supporter Jack, who came in with his mum and donated a brand new puzzle and a little note, bless him J

 

Strike a pose!

Every picture tells a story and we have some great ones from this year’s Operation Santa, so why not have a browse?

How did we do?

Why we do it

We’ve had some lovely feedback from some of our recipients and I have also shared some sad tales this year too, including an arson attack, a burglary and children being taken into care at Christmas. Thanks to the generosity of lovely local people, businesses and statutory partners, we have helped to add a little Christmas cheer.

May I have a round of applause please?

I would like to pass on sincere thanks to all the lovely people who have supported us, but also some very special people who have helped make Operation Santa a reality and have really gone the extra mile.

Brett Harris  for his passion, commitment and unfailing support

Rose Cook Monk for her help with elf duties and her lovely husband Andy for being our volunteer sleigh driver, whizzing around the borough collecting donations.

The lovely team from Brierley Hill Civic Hall, who have kept us plied with coffee and cake, moved boxes and found random items as we have needed them. We have been a real disruption at times, but they have put up with us and our incessant stream of visitors.

Did we have a panto? Oh yes we did!

Huge thanks to the fabulous Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company, who have done us an amazing price on their tickets, meaning that 180 tickets for their pantomime ‘Mother Goose’ could be purchased. This is always a fab experience for the children who attend and is often their first experience of going to the theatre.  Oh yes it is!

 

Thanks to BHMTC for doing very special prices on the tickets. 170 at panto performance.

Share our journey and join Operation Santa

If you would like to help next year or want to see what we are up to, why not join in the fun and share our stories as they happen.

BLOG:   www.operationsanta.wordpress.com  simply visit the blog and sign up to follow us, then you will get an email each time I post a story.  You can also download our wishlists for gifts and essentials, and see who’s been supporting us so far.

FACEBOOK:  join us at for the latest news and stories https://www.facebook.com/Operationsanta.Dudleyborough/

 

 

 

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

My week working at Dudley CVS

At Dudley CVS we’re passionate about nurturing young people to develop their skills and experience a possible future career path. Last week we had the pleasure of meeting Evie Colesby, a work experience student, who spent a week working with our teams at Dudley CVS. It was great to have such an enthusiastic self-starter on board and an extra pair of hands in the lead up to our AGM and Volunteer Awards! Here’s what Evie thought about her time at Dudley CVS…

“Early last year I was told by my school that I had to try and find work experience for a week in October. Typically, most of my class left it to their parents or our teacher to organise. However, I sat down with my parents and we spoke about what I was potentially interested in doing with my life. It’s such an overwhelming prospect, a 14 year old trying to decipher what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives! After mulling over several ideas I decided, because I’m very creative, fields that seemed very interesting to me were media, marketing and comms. Granted, I may have let my mom take the lead, however, I am so glad I did! She knew Eileen, volunteer manager at Dudley CVS, through work they had done together with volunteers before, and Eileen so very kindly offered to have me. At Dudley CVS they have made me feel so very welcome, even at a time of stress (the week before the awards!), they have never failed to include me and help me get stuck into tasks I can do to help.

Dudley CVS is an infrastructure charity supporting voluntary, community and faith sectors in Dudley borough, they also support social enterprises. I have learnt, in a nutshell, that the Dudley CVS team work incredibly hard to support, to advise, and to train local people to benefit their organisations.

Throughout the week commencing 9th October, I spent my time moving from Albion Street to DY1 Venue. In this time I met some of the nicest people, everyone is so caring and giving. I was shocked at the amount of work they were all so willing and happy to put in to help others.

MONDAY 9th OCTOBER: On Monday I had a little induction with Eileen and met the team at Albion Street, who were all very lovely. Seeing as everyone was preparing for the awards on Wednesday 18th I became an extra pair of hands to help with this. Meaning I was doing all sorts like putting certificates in frames for the main award winners and organising which certificates went onto which tables. I also met Dale and Steph, the admin staff (who were lovely!) and they asked me to make phone calls regarding the awards and proxy votes etc.

TUESDAY 10th OCTOBER: The morning of Tuesday consisted of finishing off the phone calls made on Monday. And then at midday Eileen and I went to a volunteer celebrations at Live at Home (http://www.mha.org.uk/community-support/live-home/), which was so interesting! I met the mayor and had some great conversations with the volunteers, who received their certificates from the Volunteer Awards. I also learnt about volunteering as a community and the help received for this to happen.

WEDNESDAY 11th OCTOBER: Wednesday was one of my favourite days, I went to the DY1 Venue and met Mel, Faye and Becky from Healthwatch (http://healthwatchdudley.co.uk/). I started the morning by talking to Mel about how varied a comms role can be and how I might like to be involved with comms. We also proofread the annual report and I helped her make some adjustments so that it could be sent off to print. She then told me about a new project they are working on based around neglect in communities, and what it means to thrive (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/thrive-in-dudley-learn-it-try-it-celebrate-tickets-38433770442), we spoke about how we could present this campaign to young people and how it could be promoted in schools. This was all before lunch!

After lunch, I met Faye and Becky (a young health champion) and we went to “Gather” (https://en-gb.facebook.com/gatherdudleycic/), a café with lovely food and a great atmosphere, where they invite anyone in the community to come along to events held there or just to go for a sandwich and a drink.

“So many people have so much to give and we want to bring them all together to help make Dudley the place where things happen.”

I spoke to Faye and Becky about the young health champions and what they do for Dudley, and that Becky had raised lots of money for mental health charities. We then went back to DY1 Venue and we spoke about how to construct a press release and how a USP makes a more creative and improved marketing campaign.

THURSDAY 12th OCTOBER: In the morning I went to an event at DY1 Venue called “Navigating Difficult Times”, this was basically a chance to have a coffee and connect whilst doing so. I met the staff involved with organising this, obviously I already knew Eileen and I had met Martin on Monday too. But I was introduced to John, Helena and Andy. Who each spoke to everyone there, I learnt about what funders are looking for from Martin, how to effectively network, sell yourself and your company from Andy, and Helena spoke about how Dudley CVS support groups with their communications, The Echo, (their newsletter) and annual report for 2016/17.

Navigating difficult times and getting the support you need event

Navigating Difficult Times event

FRIDAY 13th OCTOBER: On my last day I went to Holly Hall Secondary with Nicki and Donna to promote and launch a programme called izone (http://izone.org.uk/). The programme is basically a way of allowing young people in the community to have a platform where they can fall back to if they’re struggling with things such as mental wellbeing, relationships, finance and lots more. The website and app also offer a link to “giving back” this allows young people to get involved with the community and help or support others. I also went to a few of the other talks given by other corporations such as St John’s Ambulance and the Fire Service. I then came back to Albion Street where Eileen and I completed my assessment and reports of the week, I was glad to know it was all positive feedback!

My week at Dudley CVS has been very interesting and my experience has been so welcoming and inclusive. I’d like to also use this as an opportunity to thank everyone I have been working with this week, I appreciated that they all treated me like an adult and involved me in everything, especially seeing as I was there on the busiest week of the year! I hope I was helpful as an extra pair of hands and didn’t get in the way or further stress anyone out. The lessons I have learnt this week I will definitely take forward with me, to consider my future career. It has been such a valuable and important experience that I have also thoroughly enjoyed, so thank you!

On Wednesday 18th October I have been invited to the awards (https://dva2017.wordpress.com/) to take informal photographs and to see the amazing commitment and hard work endured within volunteering. I am really looking forward to the night as I have been told by everyone how fabulous it is when it has all come together! This is also something Eileen asked me to do because I had participated (a very small role) in making the awards happen, which I think is a real privilege and compliment from them, as the event is so important.”

A thank you to Evie, our volunteer photographer and work experience student with the Mayor of Dudley and Mike Abrahams, Dudley CVS Chairman

We wish Evie all the best in her future and thank her for joining us last week. Don’t forget to keep your eyes out for Evie’s volunteer awards photos at www.dva2017.wordpress.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