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

A snapshot of our work supporting people, communities and organisations over the last year

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I’m really pleased to share the work that my colleagues and I have been doing over the past year in a our most recent annual report. So new, it’s not yet hot off the press, the 2015-16 annual report is a snapshot of the work we’ve done between April 2015 and March 2016 to support individuals, communities and organisations across Dudley borough.

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Working Together for Change

changeOne of the highlights of my time with Dudley CVS has been the opportunity to help develop and support Dudley Parent Carer Forum – Working Together for Change. Not just because they are a group of awesome people with such amazing strength, that are giving, insightful and bundles of fun, but because they are completely committed to influencing decisions that affect their lives and the lives of other parents with children who have disabilities or additional needs. It has been a privilege to see their confidence and relationships with professionals develop and to see the real tangible outcomes of these collaborations. I truly believe that this has been possible partly because of the liberating leadership model of governance that they have chosen to use.

Strong foundations 

The forum formed just over 2 years ago now and is made up from six organisations, all with three seats each, and a number of independent parent carers and grandparents. The steering group is large in comparison to some organisations but it really works for WTFC; as parent carers have complex lives, having a large steering group removes pressure to have to be at meetings but still gives us solid representation to make decisions and move work forward.

The steering group is working to a liberating leadership style which makes the best use of people’s strengths, skills and experiences. Roles, tasks and groups are allocated based on interest and skills.

The forum spent the first few meetings really getting to know each other, forming a solid team with a collective understanding and vision. The purpose of the first session was to come together and collectively agree what the forum stood for and agree a way to move forward together. It was also an opportunity to agree how we want the forum to be seen. The session was designed to have an interactive and creative focus.

postcardsBox of postcards

To start the process the group was asked to look through a selection of postcards and pick one that they were particularly drawn to and one that they were not sure about. It was interesting to hear the reasons why different postcards were selected and different perspectives.

 Drawing with eyes closed

Each member of the group was given a piece of blank paper and a pen. They were then asked to draw a flower with their eyes closed and hand the drawing in without looking at their own or each others. Incredibly everyone identified their own drawing even though they had not seen what they had drawn!

The group again with eyes closed were asked to draw something they liked. They then had to identify who had drawn what. We learnt a lot about each other through these activities as well as identifying some ideas of what our visual identity should be.drawing wtfc

The group began to think about the importance of how they put their message across, and about the key elements that deliver that message such as a logo, the images we use, and our title. It was agreed that as a forum they need to be clear and say ‘this is what we do, and this is what we don’t do!’

After this session a clear vision was formulated which is to “Empowering Dudley Parent Carers to have their voices heard in a way that influences change & service design”

Having solid foundations and a clear vision has enabled the forum to work together, giving over 850 hours of volunteer time to collaborate with professionals, to influence policies, develop statutory organisations’ publicity materials and websites, encouraged partnerships working and discouraged silos and helped to shape new services!

They have achieved all this whilst still offering support, friendship and fun to all parent carers across Dudley borough, communicating and sharing with over 800 parent carers within the network.

You can find out more about Working Together for Change and their incredible journey by visiting the website or following them on Twitter.

Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; Working together is success!

 Henry Ford

bliss twitter 1

Celebrating our work with people, communities and organisations

Dudley CVS Annual Report, 2014-15

I’m really pleased to share the work I and my wonderful colleagues have done to support individuals, communities and organisations last year. The Dudley CVS Annual Report outlines how we’ve been connecting and inspiring people and organisations to achieve positive change and championing their work. It covers the year April 2014-March 2015.

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A different starting point

One of the best things I do in my job at the moment is work with residents in Coseley who are leading the Big Local programme, along with my colleagues Neil and Donna. We’ve recently been testing out new ways to support people with ideas who want to start activities. We have worked hard with residents to develop a process which embraces the underpinning ethos of East Coseley Big Local: to start with what is already available around us.

Doris and Vusa live in Coseley and want to start a weekly out-of-school education, recreation and mentoring programme for 8 – 14 year olds. They agreed to help test our new process. A month ago they joined Dudley CVS staff and four residents from the East Coseley Big Local Core Group. We started off by sharing some examples of inspiring projects from other places around the world. Doris was interested in Singledingen, a project started by neighbours in a park in Rotterdam, and Hackney Pirates, an amazing out-of-school learning adventure started by a teacher and local people.

Then we introduced our Ideas Canvas, which prompted conversation about what Doris, Vusa and other members of their team bring in terms of passion, skills, experience and knowledge. Together we identified who they might like to meet to help them get started. Something we asked which was a bit of a surprise to Doris and Vusa was: ‘What could the children bring and contribute to the programme?’ They hadn’t thought about this before, but readily considered ways that children could share their talents with each other, and be supported to take on leadership roles.

Another surprise was that we were able to help Doris and Vusa to cut their costs for 2 taster sessions by about two-thirds, by re-thinking some activities with them, and by sourcing materials and equipment that could be borrowed from local groups. This was possible due to members of local groups being involved in the Big Local Core Group, added to by the local knowledge of Dudley CVS officer Neil Langford. An unexpected outcome of bringing people together in the way we did was that after also hearing about a children’s holiday club which was planned at Darkhouse Baptist Church, Doris volunteered to help out with it. And in turn she had offers of help for her taster weekend.

Made 4 Kidz, founded by Doris and Vusa, now has a lovely bright website, a Facebook Page and two taster sessions running this weekend at the Rainbow Community Centre. Leaflets have been delivered to households in the area. Please do help spread the word.

Also do let us know what you think about connecting people and resources in neighbourhoods, and any experiences you have of doing it.

Made 4 Kidz Big Opening flyer