Heart of the Community

By Dan Barron and Sam Dixon, Heart of the Community Project Workers

Part of the key to RotherFed’s and the Heart of the Community project success comes from developing and creating key relationships with partners across Rotherham. It is this collaborative approach to our work that supports us to reach the communities that want support our important community projects.  

A few months ago, a worker began working with Neil, one of the founding members of the S61 Litter picking group supporting the Masbrough and Ferham area. The S61 Litter pickers work alongside Wayne Munroe-Smith, the Love where you live project leader who is no stranger to working with RotherFed and volunteers across the Rotherham Borough. Love Where You Live was created by Leader of RMBC supported project seven years ago to support residents to get involved in litter picking and greenspace groups and is unique locally.

After some back and forth we looked at supporting Neil and other litter picking groups to support volunteers from different groups speak with other litter picking leaders and volunteers across Rotherham. Wayne said that he too was looking at how this could potentially happen and RotherFed was already on his list to get on board with an upcoming event.   Wayne Munroe-Smith created the event as an ice breaker between services and volunteers who are actively involved in environmental projects across Rotherham. Partners from across Rotherham were asked to come and talk with the volunteers in the morning, which saw the Rotherham Mayor who continues to litter pick in Rotherham open the event with a speech on the value of taking pride in your community.  The leader of the RMBC, Dominic Beck Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, the leader of the Neighbourhood Coordinators and the head of Environmental services. Each key speaker spoke about the impact they see that volunteers have in Rotherham and how services can work with Rotherham residents to improve the environment and the lives of Rotherham residents. 

Wayne Munroe-Smith, Love where you Live & Love my Streets Project Co-Ordinator:

“I wanted to get wider services involved like neighbourhoods because every area in Rotherham has a coordinator. If residents know their local neighbourhoods’ officer, they can develop relationships and gain valuable knowledge from services.  We want volunteers and residents to find the support they need for their community.” 

RotherFed became a part of this event because of our positive relationships with local authority and other VCS services. Wayne asked RotherFed to join the event because RotherFed a have the knowledge and experience supporting volunteers and community groups with a person centric focus to create positive social change. As an organisation our person centric approach gives volunteers the confidence to get involved in community activity or take their group to the next level, learn a new skill, or become more involved in their community. We strive to help volunteers and groups to reach their goals because their success is our success.  

 “Rotherfed can bring something different to the table. They have a different skill set that can create and support voluntary opportunities to make positive social change through their project workers. Their experience and knowledge supporting groups to become sustainable and the ability to work with people is an asset that is highly valued”. 

Rotherfed’s involvement in the event was to speak with volunteers about how we as an organisation can support them and their community groups. Overall, the event was able to celebrate 40 volunteers and groups for their hard work to towards environmental community projects. Volunteers were able to understand how services are trying to work with volunteers, improve the service delivery to make Rotherham residents better and learn that there are services like Rotherfed that can support volunteers and community groups should they need it in future.  

Feedback from volunteers who attended the event:

“It was good to know how many other concerned residents are taking part in the various types of litter picks.” 

“It was very informative and gives hope that Rotherham will be cleaner and greener borough.” 

“Enjoyed the meeting today. Great to feel part of a wider team working together.” 

“Thanks again for today. It was good finding out the various things/initiatives happening within the Borough and to meet up with other “like minded” people and have a natter.” 

“I would just like to say thank you to all involved in this morning’s presentation. It was so interesting and informative. I hope the local press were there.” 

“It’s great to hear about everything else that is going on behind the scenes -the community.  

schemes, the surveillance enforcement and the wider RMBC team action! As a lone litter picker – it did make me feel connected to a wider goal!” 

“What happens as a result of bringing people together and building strong relationships in and across communities?” 

S61 Litter pickers  “Great morning at the Love Where You Live Rotherham Meeting this morning at Clifton Park. It was nice to meet other like minded volunteers who do some amazing work across our town. It was also nice to be thanked by the leader of our Council for the work that we do as well as other Council members from various departments. The meeting was very informative, but we have questions left still unanswered which we will be asking post meeting to the relevant people”. 

Heart of the Community and other RotherFed projects are often involved in more strategic community-based meetings which help workers to have a greater understanding of the needs of certain aspects of the community. This partnership also helps decision makers to understand how RotherFed can directly support residents and groups. To have a strong working relationship with our partners in Rotherham and to be recognised as part of a go to service for our communities is fantastic. It is shown by the increasing number of volunteers were able to engage with in Rotherham communities. 

Another example of RotherFed working closely with partners is the work that we do with Voluntary Action Rotherham (VAR). VAR have a specific remit to promote and offers support to the VCS across Rotherham. Heart of the community linked with VAR this year summer to support and celebrate volunteers through a number of events. In June we collaborated with VAR to support their annual Volunteer walk, which celebrates and highlights the positive impact of volunteers across the borough.  

Kerry McGrath – Volunteering and Group Support Manager at Voluntary Action Rotherham: 

‘We’ve worked together with Rotherfed on a number of events and workshops over the last few years and they’ve been a real partnership effort.   It’s been great to pool experience and expertise to deliver events and training for local residents.   Dan and Sam in particular have been involved from the planning stages through to the delivery on the day and are always positive and bring fresh ideas. We look forward to working with them on future initiatives.    

At the Rotherham Show the Heart of the Community chose to promote the project with the partner organisation as it was an opportunity to get the best engagement from volunteers involved at all levels of the VCS. We engaged with over 400 community members who shared with us their opinions on how a community works together as well as their own personal stories of volunteering.  

For the second year in a row Heart of the Community and VAR co-delivered a workshop for 12 volunteers that want to start their own community groups. The workshops had a clear aim of delivering information that would give volunteers the knowledge and skills required to create their own community group. This years’ workshop saw volunteers from 5 different groups come together to learn and share their own experiences from some very varied communities. 

By working so closely with VAR we have had the opportunity to celebrate volunteers, promote community cohesion and empowered individuals to take proactive steps towards building a stronger Rotherham.