FAITH IN OUR COMMUNITY – PHASE 2 PROJECT DEVELOPMENT
PROGRESS REPORT FOLLOWING MISSION GRANT AWARDED BY NORTHERN SYNOD – JULY 2014
In the past year, we have noticed that the austerity measures are impacting significantly in the deprived neighbourhoods where Faith In Our Community works. Residents tell us about the anxiety and stress they are experiencing, resulting in poor health and wellbeing. The eleven ecumenical local neighbourhood projects are all continuing to develop their work, including the six ‘new’ local projects we set up in 2013. They are involving and supporting residents, numbers of volunteers are increasing and people are keen to use their time and skills to improve their communities.
PROGRESS OF LOCAL PROJECTS
FIC’s project officer has been working particularly closely with projects at Evenwood, Easington Colliery, Stockton PLANT, Breathing Space and Grindon which have experienced significant challenges due to key people moving on (including chairs x 2 and community development workers x 3).
Grindon Church Community Project, chaired by Revd David Whiting, has reviewed governance, appointed two new trustees, set up a user group, and recruited six volunteers who are doing office support, community fundraising events and have set up a new web site
Roker URC Community Project has held a series of workshops, facilitated by Helen Stephenson, to plan the development of their church building for community outreach and have decided to focus on older people. Benches have been removed and replaced by chairs. Working in partnership with Sunderland City Council, computers have been set up and older residents are learning to use them.
Stockton Hope has developed a drop-in with personal support, signposting and food aid, staffed by volunteers. We gave a lot of support in dealing with a contentious volunteer situation which could have threatened the reputation of the project, which was resolved successfully.
Evenwood Family Project has developed two community gardens, a film club and holiday activities with food. They are working on a three year plan to build a healthier and more cohesive community based on their community gardens, involving families and people with learning difficulties.
Hetton New Dawn’s lunch club for elderly people is attended by 45 people. They also run a Memory Café for people with dementia/carers and a befriending service visiting isolated old people.
Easington Lane Loaves and Fishes has a growing demand for food parcels and is getting a lot of support from local churches and businesses. Volunteers provide hot soup and friendship and signpost to other support organisations.
Stockton HOPE runs evening activities for children and holiday activities with food. The Manna Pantry provides food parcels. Recently they have taken a lease on a ‘community house’ and are running a drop in.
Stockton PLANT has had a difficult year. Governance issues have been tackled and a new treasurer and new trustees have been recruited. Their work with older people has continued despite transport difficulties (cuts to community transport). Work with local schools was suspended when a partner organisation closed. In July a new development plan was agreed and the project is now in better heart with future plans in place and ready to move forward.
St Luke’s Pallion has continued its work with older people and children’s holiday activities. They have been going through a period of financial uncertainty while negotiating for a nursery to lease part of their premises (which will bring much needed income). They plan to work closely with the nursery staff and parents to develop new activities.
Breathing Space, Witton Gilbert has had a very successful year running a range of activities for people who need to relax and de-stress and people with mental health problems. They also run environmental activities for families and older people. 20 volunteers from the local churches are involved.
Shildon Alive has developed a second community garden and runs guerrilla gardening programme. Local children took part in a Secret Santa activity linking them with older people. They have leased a shop on the main street which is the focus for their food bank, benefits advice and advocacy services. Over 100 local people are involved as volunteers.
This year, FIC’s project officer has facilitated six workshops with individual projects to review impact and make future plans. More workshops are planned for Shildon Alive and Easington Colliery Café Together in December and a further three early to be held in 2016 at Easington Lane, Pallion (Sunderland) and Hetton.
WORK ON DEVELOPMENT PLANS AND FUNDING STRATEGIES
Following the workshops, FIC has been working with the community development workers, chairs and trustees on firming up their development plans and funding strategies. Funding our work is becoming increasingly challenging and there is increasing competition for grants. Some projects are struggling and exist on a financial knife edge. Training for our trainee workers in identifying funders and completing grant application forms is beginning to show small results.
TRAINING PROGRAMME FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT WORKERS
FIC’s training programme for our trainee community development workers is nearing completion. It has been organised by Helen Stephenson and Jim Robertson and has run for two years. The programme has consisted of a monthly learning / training day and visits to established projects. Five workers will be submitting portfolios to Sostenga for accreditation and we expect them to get Level 3 qualifications (one worker might obtain Level 4).
Faith In Our Community is in the final year of its 3 year development plan and during the past year the Steering Group has been discussing the future of the project. FIC’s chair, Ven Stuart Bain, has arranged a meeting with representatives of Communities Together Durham, Bridges Project and NECAT to discuss ways of working together more closely to maximise resources. This important meeting will be held on December 16th 2015.
FIC has been running a learning/training programme for the past eight years for workers, management committees and volunteers involved in our community development projects (and others in the wider community). The programme involves theological reflection, raising awareness / discussion of current issues and practical training. The FIC Steering Group has identified a continuing gap in provision of learning / training in the region and is considering whether to continue with current provision and possibly expand it.