Tell us what you do
At Brushstrokes we provide a welcoming centre for newcomers into Sandwell. Over our 15 years existence we have supported refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from 130 different countries. We provide support in three key areas. The first of these is through our practical support for newcomers. Many experience an acute level of poverty. Our response is to give out food, clothes, baby packs and household items on a weekly basis to people facing multiple issues.
The second aspect of our work is offering advice, support, befriending and outreach. This involves visiting individuals and families to offer befriending to overcome isolation and exclusion and offer access to advice surgeries to meet their complex needs.
Our third area of work is offering newcomers the opportunity to learn English (ESOL) through our volunteer teaching programme. We currently have 160 people learning English in the centre.
What is your proudest achievement?
I believe every aspect of our work achieves its goal of enabling people to flourish and become more independent.
Some specific examples include: housing homeless people, helping people into work and gaining qualifications in English. Lastly, we are proud of our recent accreditation through the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation as a quality provider.
What is your experience of support received from SCVO?
We have experienced support from SCVO in a number of ways. Most recently, this was through the managing change programme which enabled us to review our governance status and adopt a local constitution.
Over the years we have benefitted from their fundraising information days as well as their operational business events. I find these events very helpful as they allow organisations to network with each other.
Overall SCVO been very supportive over the years and have helped us with access to a variety of opportunities including the current Creative Black Country programme we are involved in which is supporting our service users in accessing and taking part in a range of creative activities.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Sandwell?
Through working with newcomers and people who have been in Sandwell for a long time, I have become inspired by the community spirit and positive aspiration of wanting to become part of Sandwell amongst all its residents.
What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?
Due to the growing need for our work we have outgrown the space in our current building. As a result, we are looking for a way to expand and reconfigure our internal and external space through applying for capital funding.
In terms of other challenges, funding in all sectors is shrinking and growing the organisation is more difficult. Our key goal is to sustain to our core areas of work whilst continuing to respond to the challenges of providing more resources and more services as demand for these services grows.
How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?
In the future SCVO could help support Brushstrokes by securing enhanced support for smaller organisations and championing their impact and reach in the public arena.
A key role of SCVO which would help us is to provide capacity building to help smaller organisations to work together collaboratively by developing the networking skills of grassroots workers in local areas.
In addition, assisting organisations like ours with funding bids and promotional activities are also important areas where we hope SCVO will still be bedrock of support in the future.
For more information please contact 0121 565 2234 or visit http://www.brushstrokessandwell.org.uk/