Local Impact Spotlight

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Spotlight on Girls Friendly Society

Tell us what you do
Girls Friendly Society (GFS) recruits women volunteers to run groups where girls can go make friends, build confidence, have fun and be inspired. At the groups, girls focus on six key themes; feeling a part of their community, being creative, getting active, learning to be happy with who they are, developing skills for life and having a lot of fun.

What is your proudest achievement?
We are a really long-established organisation – we were founded in 1875! – and we are proud of our ability to keep changing with the times while holding the core value of supporting and empowering women. We have a number of volunteers who have been with us for 40 or more years, and their willingness to develop and grow with us to provide something that is relevant for today is something we are also, extremely proud of.

What is your experience of support received from SCVO?
From the first contact, we had with the SCVO a couple of months ago, we received lots of support in terms of local knowledge and useful contacts. Staff have been really helpful and welcoming to Jennie Crosby, our Midlands Regional Development Coordinator.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Sandwell?
Everyone Jennie has met have been really friendly and interested in finding out what Girls Friendly Society is about and what we can offer in local communities. Organisations and community groups have been keen to share information about us, putting Jennie in touch with lots of people. We are also finding out what a large and diverse Metropolitan Borough Sandwell is.

What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?
We are just about to launch two new groups for girls aged 7-12 in the area – one in Cradley Heath and one on Hurst Road, Smethwick. Recruiting volunteers who are passionate about empowering girls and can commit to running the groups for a medium to long term is the challenge. While short term volunteers are welcome, we’re particularly interested in people who can commit to helping us maintain some consistency within the group.

How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?
Your knowledge of the local area (especially venues) is really useful, as we plan to continue to open groups nearby. Our goal is to establish a reputation for providing amazing opportunities for girls in this area.

Interested in becoming a volunteer? Then why not check out their volunteering page by clicking here.


The Church on the Rock

1. Tell us what you do.

The Church on the Rock (in Oldbury) is a church, but also a warm and welcoming place for the local community to get together and support each other in many different ways – bringing together people from often quite diverse backgrounds, but in an environment that is safe, warm and welcoming. For example, a “mums and toddlers” group helps to create stronger family bonds; youth groups on Tuesday evenings include activities such as football and crafts, which help young people to be more involved and active in the local community; coffee mornings , on the second Saturday of every month, help to bring local people together on a social basis, and regular Alpha courses explore the basics of the Christian faith.

2. What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?

Going forward, the Church on the Rock would like to develop further, both as a church and in terms of how it can support children and young people in the local area. The hope is to promote a ‘can do’ attitude in the community. There is also the desire to provide English Language classes given the significant migrant population arriving in Sandwell from countries where English is not the first language. These classes would be invaluable for community cohesion as language is often a barrier in populations from diverse cultural and geographical backgrounds . Furthermore, almost 30% of Sandwell’s population have no qualifications so providing these easy access, free course would be invaluable to the community and their future job prospects.

3. How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?

A number of SCVO’s services are very beneficial – the Funding Digest in particular – and networking opportunities are always helpful. These help the Church to gain more funding and ‘spread the word’ about the services on offer. As a result, the Church on the Rock will be able to help more people in the local area to grow and develop, helping to create a sustainable community.


Warrior Martial Arts Community Fitness Centre

1. Tell us what you do.
Warrior Martial Arts provides expert coaching to everyone regardless of background, gender, age, or possible disabilities. We are now running our own community fitness centre to provide services that promote health and fitness such as dance, Zumba and other fitness classes.

2.  What is your proudest achievement?
Our proudest achievement, to date, has been setting up a permanent space for our community activities to take place in. We previously hired out halls and churches, but with the help of our students, the local community (who showed a strong interest in our project) and our links with other local martial arts groups, we were able to raise the money needed to secure the lease on a building and create our own purpose built space for our community.

3. What is your experience of support received from SCVO
Our current experience with SCVO has been the advice and support from Libby, who has been great at showing us the options available to our small group and give us clear information with which, to make a much more informed decision regarding our future direction. We have also been pointed in the direction of some fantastic local links who I am sure will be a great help to us in future.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Sandwell?
That we have a very strong community. In spite of our not so great current crime rate and publicity, the people of Sandwell are willing to step in and support local projects such as ours. The lesson we have found most valuable has been knowing where to find the common ground to bring everyone together in support of a shared community goal.

5. What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?
Our plans for the future are to increase the amount of activities we can provide, as well try and provide opportunities for the local community to build their own skills through us. We believe that through our space we can provide not just a place for martial arts but a space for all round health, wellbeing and growth.

Some of our key challenges are being able to drum up support for funding outside of our activities that we run, and identifying current needs of the community. There is also a bit of a racial and cultural divide which we will have to contend with in order to really bring the whole of the community together.

6. How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?
SCVO can help us, by providing us, with up to date local information that would be beneficial to our group and our aims. Also, by being able to shed light on our group and activities to others to generate more interest would be a massive help.

For more information contact Craige on: 07710563621 or email wmatipton@gmail.com. We can also be found on Facebook @WMATipton.


MW Fitness and Community Care

1.       Tell us what you do.
We are a health and wellbeing organisation specialising in mentoring for young people aged 5-19 years, addressing issues which affect emotional, mental, physical and behavioural wellbeing. We operate with a ‘no topic off-limits and no question unanswered’ policy. We do this through school assemblies, group workshops and one-to-one mentoring to address topics of modernity, societal and personal issues. Additionally, we support people with physical disabilities and injuries, including older people, to help them achieve their goals, increase their independence and maximise their potential through physical activity programmes.

 2.       What is your proudest achievement?
Having recently formed a partnership with St Michaels C of E school to deliver a Youth Violence and Knife Crime event under their 21ST Century Child initiative. With over 250 people attending including parents, students, other schools, organisations and professionals, the evening was a huge success with everyone leaving having learnt something. Part Two will be announced soon!

 3.     What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Sandwell?
The community of Sandwell is uniquely beautiful; there is a sense of unity, care and most importantly, of strength and diversity. This offers many opportunities to grow and develop opportunities within the area for residents e.g. employment, education, community contributions and health and well-being. We feel integrated in to the community and value our relationships in the local area. The multicultural richness and positive energy which radiates from the community is fabulous to be part of on a daily basis!

 4.     What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?
The future for MW or what we call ‘The MW Movement’ is bright! We wish to support as many young people that we can to reach their potentials, increase the activity levels and confidence of older people, and to have a hub for the community to enjoy. We anticipate that this will be a place where everyone is welcome, where no-one gets marginalised and intergenerational communication is in abundance. Our continual challenge is being accessible to all ….. we would love nothing more than to provide our services across all of the Sandwell area, no matter the organisation, institution or community group!

 5.     How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?
We would like to develop regular, ongoing relationship with the SVCO to identify where MW could add value in the local community, compliment other services and agencies, with the hope of developing a permanent ’hub’ in the area.

If you’d like to find out more about the great work MW Fitness and Community Care are doing then why not drop them an email at mwfitnesscare@gmail.com


Thimblemill Socialise Book Club

A friend of mine and I had the idea of starting up the Book Club around three years ago as there was nothing in the area like it and he already was a storyteller for children, so we thought why not do the same but for adults. Since we’ve started our Book Club has gone from strength to strength and continues to develop as our membership numbers increase.

We are a volunteer led Book Club based in Thimblemill Library that is open to anyone who struggles accessing literature for whatever reason such as a visual impairment. The feedback I get from members and our lovely volunteer readers alike is always promising and positive. Since featuring in the talking newspaper we’ve attracted some new member but there’s always room for more.

We meet on Tuesday afternoons from 2.15pm at Thimblemill Library, Thimblemill Road, Smethwick, B67 5RJ. We provide refreshments and there is always a large bowl of water and a biscuits for the dogs.

Our Book Club brings like-minded individuals together in a warm and friendly space to chat with our readers and socialise with others, as new friendships are made in a nurturing and supportive environment.

So why not pop in to see us and have a chat to see what we are all about. Starting your journey of discovery into the world of books and all the different reading genres just waiting for you to explore and share your insights with other members.

For more information about our club please contact via email Dan Letchford at dj.letchford@gmail.com or have a look at our Facebook page at @ThimblemillSocialisebookclub


React Martial Arts

Who are React Martial Arts?

React Martial Arts was set up in August 2014 as a kickboxing organisation designed to make kickboxing and martial arts more accessible to all.

For more information on the organisation visit their website at www.reactmartialarts.co.uk

1) Tell us what you do.

We run Kickboxing classes for ages 5+ at St Michael’s School, Rowley Regis on Tuesday evenings between 19:00-20:00. Classes are taught in a controlled and fun environment to encourage everyone to develop at their own pace, with regular grading’s to allow students to show what they have learnt.

We also take a small group of fighters to compete locally, nationally and internationally. And lastly we sometimes do work in schools such as special martial arts taster days.

2) What is your proudest achievement?

Our proudest achieve is having two England squad members who recently won a gold medal each at the ICO World Championships. In total taking 6 medals from 6 categories.

3) What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Sandwell?

The most valuable lesson we have learnt about working with people in Sandwell is that people need to take things at their own pace and it’s important to listen to what they want and where they are on their individual journey.

4) What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?

Our plans for the future are to continue to make Kickboxing accessible to all and to educate our community that despite common misconceptions that martial arts promote violence and fighting, martial arts is about teaching control, discipline and can help to tackle mental health concern.

5) How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?

SCVO can help through reiterating the above point that Kickboxing is not just about fighting but about teaching respect, discipline, and control whenever possible and supporting is to share our accomplishments and success to a wider audience enabling us to demonstrate to others where kickboxing as a sport can take them.

If you’d like to find out more about these services and Tuesday evenings session at St Michael’s school please contact Arron Walker on 07539 383 299 or via email at reactmartialarts@outlook.com


Summary of West Bromwich Unemployed Young People’s Social Action Project

The aim of the Project was for a group of unemployed your people supported by Sandwell HUB, Talent Match, West Bromwich JCP and Barnardo’s On Track Project, to create and complete an identified community social action, by organising and donating a number of shoeboxes containing needy toiletries and dry food products for young adults with visual disabilities.

The Project enabled the young people to gain and evidence their involvement in a community voluntary activity, which will improve their employability status with employers who view this type of activity as a recommendable staff recruitment objective. The young people will highlight their involvement in the project on their individual CVs.

The full report can be viewed here.

Further engagement and employability support will continue to be offered to young people and if anyone is interested in this they can contact Paul Powell, Progression Coach, Barnardo’s On-Track Project – paul.powell@barnardos.org.uk or telephone 0121 550 5271.


Spotlight on George Road Community Church

1)  Tell us what you do.
We are a Community Church based at George Road, Oldbury who run community activities and several groups that encourage members of our local community to be more active and meeting new people.

We currently offer ‘Extend’ (fitness classes for over 50’s Tuesday/Friday), ‘Thrive’ youth club (for 9-13’s Thursday evening), Knit and chatter (all welcome Thursday morning), ‘Come Together’ (a social group for the over 50’s on a Monday afternoon), Garden group (all welcome Wednesday morning). We also run a coffee morning on Wednesdays 10.00am for all comers.

We also have a number of rooms and Hope House, which are available for hire by other community groups and organisations.

2)  What is your proudest achievement?
We are really proud of the way our community feels they can be part of what we do here at George Road and get involved with us via our volunteer opportunities. It’s great to know that people feel welcome and able to participate in our activities.

3)  What is your experience of support received from SCVO?
It has been good to work with the SCVO team. They are a really useful resource and help us stay connected with life in Sandwell. Libby has been brilliant with helping our church try to improve the work we do. We have attended several courses that SCVO has organised and have come away with lots of advice and new contacts from attending these courses.

4)  What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Sandwell?
We are constantly amazed and pleased with the way in which the local people of Sandwell remain friendly, open to new ideas and, are willing to help with the things we do.

We held a Summer Fun Day last year and several local people volunteered to help us on the day and the run up to the day which really helped to make the Fun Day a great success.

5)  What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?
Part of our future plans include trying to increase the use of Hope House, which is a property we own within the church grounds. It has several small meeting rooms for hire that we are keen to work in partnership with others to increase their use for the benefit of our community. We would love to see more groups within Sandwell using this great facility.

6)  How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?
SCVO has been a great help to us and we hope to continue working with SCVO staff moving forward to help us to develop new partnerships, projects and supporting us to build our local contacts.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can get involved with George Road Community Church or for more information on their current activities please call Karen Palmer on 0121 423 3822.


Spotlight on Sandwell Advocacy

1) Tell us what you do
We are an independent charity offering advocacy, established in 1993, to ensure people are listened to and have a voice, that peoples rights are taken into account and that prejudice and discrimination are challenged. We work to safeguard and protect people’s rights.

Advocacy for Young Carers- we have advocates to bridge short and long-term support needs of young people who take on a caring role. We look to support them and their families in any number of ways. We ensure that the young people are at the heart of the decision making process and that their voices are heard and their needs are taken into account.

2) What is your proudest achievement?
We have been operating in Sandwell for over 24 years. I am sure you will agree this is quite an achievement for a small charity.
I’m proud to be part of an organisation like Sandwell Advocacy, working towards making a difference. All of our staff have worked in Sandwell for many years and have a wealth of knowledge and experience across the voluntary and public sector.

3) What is your experience of support received from SCVO?
We are proud to be SCVO members and we’ve got value for money for our membership.

In recent months we have secured small pots of money which have enabled us to add value to the service we provide by offering services to the people we support. We were made aware of these through SCVO emails and meetings.

More generally, SCVO is there pulling people together so we’re stronger.

4) What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Sandwell?
Our staff and volunteer workforce and advocacy partners work well together. Despite what we are told in the national media we have found that Sandwell residents are willing to pull together and support each other. People are proud of their culture and history and have a strong sense of belonging within the six towns.

5) What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?
We continue to look at offering advocacy in new areas using the models that we know work well. Additionally we are interested in creative and innovative ways of having voices heard. Our latest HLF project, Living Memory will be exploring and sharing unique photography collections and life stories from the diverse communities across the Black Country. We believe that heritage and arts projects are an ideal platform to advocate for the wider community.

6) How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?
Continue what you do best – keeping us up to date with relevant legislation, information, funding, training and networking.

For more information:
www.sandwelladvocacy.org
Contact: 0121 520 8070
Email: sandwelladvocacy@btconnect.com


Spotlight on Aspire4U CIC

1. Tell us what you do.
Aspire4U CIC supports people, developing future-proof skills and the capacity to identify and meet their own needs. We deliver activities and share resources with all members of the community, especially those experiencing social, psychological, emotional and economic disadvantage.

2. What is your proudest achievement?
Supporting 20,000 people to come together have an amazing time at the free community festival – Simmer Down Festival, who we helped to secure sponsorship, grow a communications strategy through social media and even managed their Best of Brum stage for local artists to develop.

3. What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Sandwell?
The most valuable lesson we’ve learnt as a team is that people from Sandwell have a great community spirit which is infectious.

4. What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?
Our long term plans are to continue to work with more organisations that care about helping people to develop themselves and those organisations that care about the journey and long term planning.

5. How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?
We’d like SCVO to look to promote or provide more opportunities for groups and organisations to meet up to share best practice and support the exchange of information.

For more information on Aspire4U CIC visit their website at: www.aspire4u.co.uk email: hello@aspire4u.co.uk or call on 0121 6223603.


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