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In the Dalton area of Rotherham there is a large housing development, creating a combination of new affordable housing for private owners and social housing. Part of the Corporate responsibility of the two firms involved is to ensure that their staff are required to get involved in social action locally. The firms have chosen to organize litter picks around the site to give them a visible presence within the community. They have asked the Heart of the Community project to support the work as we can link them in with local services to promote their work as well as linking them to the community groups that are already active in the area.
All levels of employees are expected to take as part of their contract from management right down to construction. The people from the team that we have met so far have been surprised at how rewarding the simple task of litter picking has been and some have even described how addictive it can be and “make you want to make sure everything that you can see has been removed.”
Caroline has been receiving the befriending phone calls since September 2022. She has long covid which has left her with brain fog, reduced mobility, and anxiety. It has also exacerbated her COPD. She lives with her adult daughter who has mental health issues. Caroline said she felt she didn’t want to ‘burden’ her daughter with her problems.
On her referral it was stated that Caroline used to be an avid reader, when she was asked about what hobbies and interests, she had she said that reading has always been a passion but due to Covid she hasn’t been able to get any new books, so her main passion in life had come to a grinding halt. This made a significant impact on her life. After some googling I found out that RMBC runs a delivery service with the libraries in the area which is run by a lovely lady called Debra.
After speaking with Debra who runs this service. We were able to organise the mobile library coming to Caroline’s house with a selection of books covering a wide genre.
After she had received the books, her volunteer said how much of a difference there was in her tone of voice, and she seemed to have rekindled her interests in life. Caroline said she had about 15 books to keep her occupied which should last “about a week”.
Caroline was so flattered with the fact we went the extra step to help her, and now we are working closely with Debra at library services who will be referring people to the befriending calls and any of our participants who can no longer access books are being referred to her.
“Having the calls from RotherFed is really useful as I am able to express myself freely without causing my daughter who lives with mw undue concerns as I know she worries.”
Harry is a lovely older gentleman who lives alone and due to a fall, which broke his hip now has reduced mobility. He gets around his flat using a wheelchair or a frame. He does have family who take him out once a fortnight. On his referral Harry said he often feels down in the evenings when he thinks about his deceased wife and the 2 children they lost. Harry is from South Wales and used to serve in the army. He has always enjoyed telling stories from his army days.
He has been talking to the same volunteer since he started receiving the befriending calls in May 2022. His volunteer always says how much of a gentleman Harry is and how much she enjoys hearing all his war stories, he has had several near-death experiences including being run over by a tank! The phone calls last a minimum of 30 mins and are normally closer to an hour, their longest call was a whooping 2 and half hours! They have conversed about everything from Harry’s Army days, his family, politics, health and about the monarchy.
His volunteer enjoys the calls immensely as she has a passion for history and hearing stories from someone who has lived through some of the most important historical events in recent times. The friendship that has developed between Harry and his volunteer really is something special. Harry has said he feels the calls have given him a new audience for his stories and he enjoys them so much because they alleviate some of his loneliness and isolation.
Joanne has been speaking with Steven for some time now on the befriending service and apparently prevented him from taking drastic measures on several occasions. He is having cancer treatment plus struggles with mental health challenges. The last couple of calls Joanne has made he has been very down, and Joanne have pushed a little hard to have a chat even though he has said he hadn’t felt like talking. A quick 5-minute call because he’s down turns in to a lengthy chat whereby, he perks up, he chats and laughs and at the end of the call always says he feels so much better and that he is glad Joanne kept him chatting. The befriending call service has so many good news stories, and such a vast amount of positive outcomes.
Alison is a lady with disabilities Joanne met at the Catch-up Café. Alison attends regularly and is a council tenant, she needed help with her mobile phone as she had ‘lost’ her text messages or so she thought. Del was helping Alison to see if he could find them and tidy her folders and apps up on her phone. She was getting quite distressed about it as that was how she received messages about GP and hospital appointments Alison asked if Joanne could look, so Joanne asked Del to text Alison to see check what the issue was. By doing this Joanne was able to locate the Text Message folder on Alison’s phone and move the folder to her front screen for easy access. Alison was over the moon and so relieved, you could see the stress fall away. Christine and Allie (organisers of the café) were happy that Alison had her messages now as they could see she was becoming quite anxious. They can absolutely see the benefits of having a digital champion representation at the Catch-up Café, they don’t want anything formal, just a mingle and chat kind of ethos. This was very good for us to engage with different housing tenants in a informal setting.
Woodsetts Neighbourhood reacting to an increase in burglaries in the area and a large rise in offroad bikes recently, decided they needed CCTV in the village. Working closely with the Police community support officer’s (PCSO’S) and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s (RMBC’s) CCTV department the group scouted locations that cameras would be most effective to cover the hotspots that developed through COVID. The group and partners both agreed that 9 Wi-Fi enabled CCTV cameras were needed and the Police would need an extra unit to view the footage from anywhere in Rotherham live but this would come at a substantial cost to the group.
Not deterred by this the group decided to raise the funds they needed and over the last few months, the group have been crowdfunding and holding social events to raise the money needed to install CCTV in the areas they had highlighted, in the first 5 weeks the group had managed to raise over half the cost through donations from residents and businesses in the area demonstrating not only the community’s backing for this project but that the community had come together behind the group and the project, but the group knew crowdfunding alone wouldn’t reach their target.
At this point the group decided to approach their Parish Councillors and Rotherham Council Councillors for help with the remaining funding. Both sets of councillors were more than happy to help get the group to the target, this means the group now have the funds to pay for the CCTV system for the community and it will be installed soon making the groups goals of a safer Woodsetts one step closer to becoming a reality
The coffee sessions and now the bingo sessions have made a huge difference in Anne’s life at High Nook neighbourhood centre. Before these sessions existed she did not have much of a social life and said she spent her days inside watching TV. Now she comes to the centre for the coffee morning and bingo, and it has given her a bit of social life. People she knew faces of; she is now getting to know better. She said she has formed new friendships and even invited one lady into her home whilst she waited for her to get ready to go down to the centre, which felt nice for her. She feels like bonds are growing slowly but surely and its due to the sessions at the centre.
She also told me that coming to the centre has also given her the confidence to go to other places which she rarely did before. She said she is going out to Worksop tomorrow which she’s never done on her own. She feels the sessions have made a positive impact on her mental health and given her confidence. She is also the bingo caller at the sessions which has given her a sense of purpose and the responsibility of doing this makes her feel good and needed. The bingo reminds her of old times when they use to have bingo on before and she is hoping the group grows and sessions get stronger.
She told me she has arthritis in her hip and knee so didn’t do much physical activity outside of her home so just going to centre has made her move more which in turn helps her feel better mentally as she knows she is moving more.
It’s that time of year again where RotherFed attend the Rotherham show. This year we decided the Heart of the Community project was going to spread the love and good vibrations on both days of the show. We were astonished at the response we have had to the luau stand and how residents are helping those who need it know matter how small the task. A whopping 1023 Rotherham residents embraced the Luau theme and our mission to discover the little acts of kindness. We’ve estimated from 1023 pledges over 1500 residents will benefit. We have found that residents are supporting each other in a variety of ways such as taking out the bins, looking after a friend, raising money for Charity, helping people find their car and so much more! We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend speaking with residents, groups, and the service providers and having fun at the stall. Here are just a few examples of what we talked about with you:
The Lets Circus tent had been one of the main attractions at Rotherham show. Seeing the buzz they created, we decided to look at their social media to see how the group engaged in the community and saw this advertised on their facebook account.
“It’s not every day that the circus comes to town and invites everyone over 55 to come and play. But that’s what we’re doing If you’re over 55 and want to do something fun, different, and exciting, then this is for you. Come join Let’s Circus for a day or three, as part of our adult participation programme. Come for a session, or we can bring an activity to a community group near you.
We contacted the group at Warreners Drive and asked if they would be interested in this activity. At first the group were quite dubious as none of them knew quite what to expect. This sort of activity is not readily available in our communities so we couldn’t even give them an idea of what was going to happen to put their minds at ease.
Steve, Demetri and Scribbles arrived with plenty of enthusiasm and a bag of tricks. They opened with an Icebreaking and memory exercise that had the group laughing and joking within minutes. There were spinning plates and plenty of activities for the whole group to get involved in. The session was enjoyed by everyone and there was some great feedback for the lets circus team.
“I would like to say how much I appreciated the fun we all enjoyed.”
“Brilliant fun, very therapeutic. Please come again.”
“We all quite unexpectedly enjoyed every ‘task’!!!”
“Great. Sorry I couldn’t stay until the end”
“It was a very good, enjoyable few hours”
“Was very good. Really enjoyed it. Hope to do it again.”
“Amazing!! Really enjoyed by all. Looking forward to seeing you all again.
If there was the opportunity for Lets Circus to deliver an activity within the community again, we know one group that would definitely want to be involved.
Jean is a very shy and quietly spoken lady, she enjoys making cards and goes to a friendship group once a month. She lost her husband 3 years ago and finds it hard coping, she often gets emotional on the phone and apologises every time. Jean has recently had a cancer diagnosis and should be starting treatment soon.
Recently her mother has become very ill and due to her own health issues, she hasn’t been able to support her as much as she normally would have done. Her brother and his wife have been looking after her mum which has caused stress for Jean as she doesn’t have a good relationship with her brother.
Jean said receiving the phone calls is a lifeline that she depends on at the moment, she has said just talking about normal things like her weekly food shop and the weather has made her feel “less like an ill person”. She speaks to one particular volunteer, and they enjoy just talking about the seemingly unimportant things in life which makes Jean feel ‘normal’.
Another issue Jean has is she needs a new hip, her surgeon won’t do the surgery until she has lost some weight. Jean has managed to lose three stone since November due to following the Slimming World Diet, she is really proud of how well she is doing. Her volunteer also gives moral support for her weight loss and makes a huge fuss every time Jean reports a loss.
They have talked about everything from their weekly food shop to the volunteers’ children and how expensive having children is at the moment. Jean enjoys these normal chats so much; she has said it makes her feel like she is living a normal life to a degree. Jean said she is getting used to her cancer diagnosis. She is feeling a lot more positive about her situation. Her granddaughter has just been accepted into college to study law/criminology. Jean is so proud of her, and this shows with how much she speaks about her.