Volunteer Walk with Voluntary Action Rotherham

The Volunteer Walk is an annual celebration of Rotherham’s Volunteering community hosted by Voluntary Action Rotherham. This year Heart of the Community was asked to support the event.

The event was to be a combination of hearing from speakers sharing their stories of how and why they give up their time for volunteering, followed by a walk through the town centre being led by the African Drummers. Refreshments were available for all taking part at the end of the walk.

On the day of the VAR volunteer walk we arrived at 10am to begin setting up the event as well as our own Heart of the Community stand. We themed our stall a with Luau vibe and gave a flower garland to everyone who filled out our Little Acts of Kindness pledge cards. The Luau theme stall and garlands was a big hit amongst everyone who attended, we collected 50 pledge cards, even the mayor of Rotherham himself wore a garland and shared his own little act of kindness.

The African Drummers led the crowd through the streets of central Rotherham. Shoppers, shop owners, business leaders all came out to applaud the group which added a massive sense of pride for those taking part.

We really enjoyed this event and understand how important it is recognizing the importance of volunteers working within our sector. Personally, we received some great partner feedback from Voluntary Action Rotherham. “It was a great day. Sam and Dan were awesome! I really appreciated their help from start to finish. Absolutely brill… “

We both hope to be involved in the Volunteer Walk over the remaining years of our project.

Warreners Drive Residents

By Dan Barron, Project Worker

Sam and I first met the residents of Warreners drive in February to introduce the Heart of the Community (HotC) project on a night meeting. Back then the residents were forming to become a constituted community entity named the UNIT group. Unfortunately, some of the community leaders were unhappy about the guidelines they would have to operate in, and the group stalled in progress.

A few weeks later residents were engaging with the flowering arranging sessions arranged by Neelam. Meanwhile the coffee morning was running on alternative sessions that were supported by HotC and HRA. Residents were loving the flower arranging sessions and the coffee mornings were only seeing small number of members attend. Nicola Jackson from the Friends of Dalton East Herringthorpe and Thrybergh greenspaces group had been speaking with the group for since 2021. She suggested the residents receive support from the DEHT umbrella, so they did not have to become a community group themselves due to the lack of residents wanting to lead. Since then, Nicola has attended most coffee mornings and the now have reached a peak attendance of 15 not including partners. The group are in high spirits and have really created amazing relationships. Every week we are seeing the group sitting in a circle nattering away and creating a positive social atmosphere.

The residents hosted their first community event which was a celebration of the Queens jubilee on the 3rd of June. Residents collaborated with us to plan the event. The residents and RotherFed decorated the centre from funding that Nicola Jackson has applied for and successfully achieved through RMBCs jubilee grant herself. The Jubilee was attended by a mixture of immediate residents to the centre and some from further away. A total of 44 people attended the event in total which was fantastic for their first event. Residents organising the event all took responsibilities on the day and delegated that amongst themselves.

The resident’s confidence has grown through consistent support from RotherFed over the last few months. They are regularly attending fitness sessions, have taken part in some digital support sessions, and are currently undertaking food hygiene level 2 training of which 4 have already passed out of the 8 residents taking part. Overall, the change in community activity and the residents has been amazing and we hope to continue to support a fantastic group.

Volunteer Walk

By Nicola Evans, Volunteers Coordinator

Five of our befriending volunteers joined me, Ffion, Yasmeen and Rob on the annual volunteer walk in Rotherham, this was the first one in 2 years following covid. It was arranged by Voluntary Action Rotherham and supported by Dan and Sam from RotherFed’s Heart of the Community Project. It was an amazing celebration of volunteering across the Rotherham borough. We were proud to represent Rotherham Federation and had many positive conversations with other organisations and their volunteers.

One of the volunteers said “thank you so much for all the efforts you and the RotherFed team put into everything to make what you do a success; you really do go above and beyond. I am truly thankful to have found and taken the opportunity to be a part of it all. You always thank us for what we do but without your guidance and support I certainly couldn’t have done the role, you built me up and really helped me to develop confidence, I have grown as a person and gain so much personally from volunteering you are an inspiration.”

Hiltop School and Bevan Crescent

Following discussions with Hilltop School a young lady was identified who was interested in doing some community volunteer work. The young lady is due to leave school in July to go to Doncaster College in September, she has done some basic volunteering and is wanting to do something on her days off from college. Kirsty has down syndrome. It was agreed that Kirsty and her tutors would be introduced to a community group based at Bevan Crescent Neighbourhood Centre, having spoken to the residents in advance we arranged a visit. On the day Kirsty was joined by her tutors plus 2 other pupils. To be honest nobody knew how this visit was going to pan out, each of the girls has different needs and all find communication a challenge especially in new surroundings. What can I say though! from walking in the door the residents were so accommodating, instantly making the girls feel at ease, offering homemade cake was a deal breaker. It was obvious that they were nervous but as anxieties eased the girls relaxed, one of the tutors stated how amazing it was to see the interactions happening so quick and how nice it was to see the girls having two-way conversations with a variety of residents. The residents who are aged between early 50s to late 90s were in their element, Keith who is instrumental in the group even took the girls outside to see the garden and the things they were growing, with patience and a big smile he spoke to the girls, the girls responded by asking questions, again the tutors were amazed and one even had a tear in her eyes she said she had never seen anything so remarkable. As Kirsty and the girls made their plans to leave there was talk of a team from Hilltop versus the residents at indoor curling which really excited all involved. Kirsty is considering her options and we hope this is the start of something amazing for all.

The tutor commented, “The group were very warm and couldn’t do enough to make our students feel at ease. We felt incredibly welcome. It gave our students opportunity to practice their communication skills. Long term there are lots of opportunities for our students to develop their life skills and confidence.”

Volunteering in the Community

This month we have made links with 6th form pupils at Hilltop School at Maltby. Discussions have started to see if we can offer volunteering opportunities for the pupils to gain experience in the community, to build confidence. The pupils at the school have additional needs and the offers have to be carefully selected to meet individual needs. Talking with the 6th form tutor we are starting to put together an offer for the school to implement in September when the school returns for the new school year. We did want to try and do a test case before the start of the holidays if possible, so in the quickest turnaround (just 2 days) we matched an amazing young lady with a community group, with the possibility of the pupil volunteering on a regular basis in the future.

Moving Rotherham

Ray came along to the S62 wellbeing walks this month. Ray is a gentleman in his 50s who suffered a stroke last year and has been living with mental health. Ray was a keen walker prior to the stroke and had become quite inactive. Ray reached out to the walking group as a way back to activities but needed to know that it was accessible and understanding off his needs. Sarah (the walk leader and S62 lead volunteer) spoke with him prior to the walk to ensure this was manageable to him, we adjusted the route to ensure his first walk with us was accessible and inclusive. Ray had a fantastic time; the group chatted the whole way round about anything and everything. Ray joined the group after for a cuppa, a biscuit, and another chat at the local library after the walk. Ray said “I’ve had a lovely time, I wasn’t sure I would be able to get back to activities following my stroke, but the compassion shown and the small changes that were made to enable me to participate really helped. I already feel part of something which is a feeling I haven’t had in a long time, just chatting and looking around at the beautiful surroundings made me feel 100% happier than I have in a long time.” Ray also spoke about tenancy problems he was having, which was picked up by Sarah and a referral was made into RotherFed to help him sort this, this was something he certainly wasn’t expecting as an outcome and he is very happy to receive the support to hopefully alleviate his concerns.

Woodsetts Neighbourhood Watch

By Rob Gooding, Community Organiser

Woodsetts Neighbourhood Watch started pre covid, due to spate of burglaries in the area, during covid a lot of the elderly residents became anxious about leaving their homes made worse by the fact burglaries were happening in the daytime. The village asked what crime prevention measures could be implemented.

The group decided that it was time for them to act, after consulting with members and other residents of the area the group decided that they wanted CCTV cameras in the area to deter the burglars from the village and make residents feel safe again.

The group have had several meetings with RBMC’s (Rotherham Council’s) CCTV team and Neighbourhoods officers and identified locations where cameras would be most effective in capturing images of these crimes happening as well as being a deterrent for other issues in the area like offroad bikes. The decision was made that a network of nine cameras was needed to cover the area at a substantial cost for the group. Not deterred by this the group started planning how they could bring the community together and raise the funds needed to make their project happen.

The group decided the best way to raise money was a crowd funding page that local residents could donate to, this has been a massive success in the five weeks it has been active, the group have been working closely with all the community groups in the area as well parish councillors of Woodsetts to advertise the page bringing the community together with a common goal, the group didn’t want to stop there and also decided to put a collection box in the local post office and have a stall on a local event where they held a tombola and other fairground games to raise extra funds.

In the first five weeks of fundraising the group have almost raised half of the funds needed to have the system installed, showing what a community can achieve when they come together with a common interest.

Tenant Involvement

By Yasmeen Ali, Community Engagement Officer

I have lived in Rotherham for the most of 35 years. I have got severe arthritis and have been very ill with this. I have been through a lot in my life and was very isolated and depressed and this made me house bound as a result. 

Social isolation and loneliness have an impact upon my life, my quality of life and health and wellbeing. It has an adverse effect on my health.  I have friends within the local area, but I haven’t seen them over 3 years due to the pandemic.  I don’t go out as I don’t feel comfortable or safe, I have little money so can’t afford busses or taxis, the language barrier also makes this difficult as I can’t explain to anyone where I want to be and how much help I need from them to get there.

When Yasmeen contacted me and told me about the session, she was doing at Tassibee, I was very hesitant to go as I have the fear of getting ill from catching covid. I don’t drive and am very scared to get public transport. Yasmeen kindly offered to pick me and drop me back off at home.

I was nervous to go but I can’t thank Yasmeen enough for taking me as I met some lovely ladies and felt part of a group. I also learnt about RotherFed, I didn’t even know it existed. I will benefit from some of the project as I am a single mum and struggle financially due to bills and being on benefits.

Since the session PA has contacted Yasmeen a few times and is looking forward to coming to the next session, she was very thankful and commented by saying “being isolated at home and not going out has really affected my mental health and wellbeing.  I felt at ease when attending the HRA session, I was worried and anxious, beforehand as I haven’t interacted with anyone for such a long time. Yasmeen made sure I was okay and checked upon me, I would like to go again”

Manvers Residents Association

By Rachel Cole, Senior projects officer

I have been supporting this group now since Summer 2021. The group originally got together to try and challenge Manvers Lake Trust about the yearly fees they all must pay to help towards the upkeep of the lake. Whilst they are still doing this, their main focus now is putting on events and activities for the local residents. They are now a constituted group and have approximately 12 committee members. The key members have attended various training sessions both through RotherFed and RMBC including, setting up a group, organising an event, first aid and safeguarding. 

They organised their first community litter pick in December, and these are now held on a regular basis. They also successfully applied for some CLF funding from the local Councillors and did a Christmas Elf hunt. They hid 50 elves around the estate and set up a treasure map. As this event was so well received, they decided to do it again for Easter this year.

The group met early January and decided they would like to put on an event for the Queen’s Jubilee weekend. They applied for some COMF funding to help cover the costs and were successful. The event took place on Thursday 3 June from 1pm until 4pm on the field in the middle of the estate, and what a successful event it was. There were over 30 stalls, children’s fairground rides, a circus workshop, fire engine and more. The group ran a raffle and tombola to raise funds to put back into the group for future events/activities. Over 500 people attended the event and positive feedback was received all-round. The residents are already asking when the next event will be! John Healey MP attended the event to show/give his support to the group and said how fantastic it was.

This was the groups’ first large event and although at times found it stressful, they really enjoyed organising it and running it on the day. They said it was so nice to hear the positive comments from the residents who really appreciated what they had done. It made all the hard work worthwhile. The group are now looking at other funding available for future events. They are also looking for funding to purchase a laptop for the group which will make life much easier. I will continue to support this group where required. 

Warreners Drive Neighbourhood Centre

I first visited Warreners Drive, Thrybergh in October 2021 when a group of residents contacted me to say they were interested in forming a constituted group to run from the Centre. The Centre had recently been redecorated and has now had new curtains and blinds fitted. I worked with this group, who called themselves UNIT (Uniting Neighbours in Thrybergh) for the next few months we helped to get them a constitution, bank account, etc.  In January 2022 we carried out a door knock around the area to find out if there was any interest from people who wanted to use the Centre and what activities they would like to see held there. A coffee morning was arranged for a couple of weeks later and since then things have gone from strength to strength.  A weekly coffee morning now takes place every Wednesday where the residents get together and have a cuppa, cake, and a chat.  As well as the coffee morning, we are working with RNN (Rotherham College) who have put on flower arranging sessions, which the ladies are loving, and some light exercise and mindfulness classes, these classes have been funded through the Councillor’s CLF funding. The group are also holding their first ‘real’ event on Friday 3 June, an afternoon tea for the Queen’s Jubilee. Over 30 people have already booked to attend this. 

Unfortunately, the group UNIT group decided in March that they no longer wished to continue, therefore, Friends of Dalton, East Herringthorpe & Thrybergh Green Spaces have kindly taken this new group under their wing and will support them until the group feels ready to be their own constituted group. One member of the Friends of Dalton group who has been learning flower arranging, recently applied for funding through Arnold Clark and was successful in getting £500. With this money she is making flower arrangements for the graves in the cemetery which are not tendered anymore, using the skills she has learnt at the flower class. Amazing!

The “previous” council warden who lives above the Centre said how nice it is that the Centre is being used again on a regular basis, she says it’s brought the life back into it.  She did say when we first did the door knocking that she hoped we could make a difference, but she doubted we would as people have tried before. It’s really nice to know that a difference has been made and the residents are once again enjoying the Centre and what it has to offer, and we hope this continues. I will continue to support the groups where needed and required.